Painted in 1916 Spring was acquired by the Tate in 1935 as a Chantrey Purchase made directly from the artist..
The artist wrote (loc. cit.) that the idea of this picture goes back to the period of the Boer War, when she was staying in Staithes in Yorkshire. She described her first view of primroses in the valley called Pearly Bottom and her first desire to paint landscape: I went there many times, hoping to make studies for a great work. There was to be everything that I know of spring in that big picture. All I learned there was the origin of a work called Spring painted in Cornwall years later. The picture was actually begun early in 1916, the scene was Lamorna Valley and the models were Ella and Charles Napier. In a letter (15 November 1957) she wrote: This picture was painted during the World’s War No. I. At that time it was against the law to paint out of doors anywhere near the Cornish Coast. And to get the material I needed, here and there, I had to lie on my stomach under a gorse or any other convenient bush, in dread of being taken off to prison, to make a line or two in a sketch book, memorise – rush back into my studio, and paint. It was exhibited with the original man in it. … For some reason or other I changed the original and put a boy in instead of the man who now figures again in the work, and the copyright with the boy in was bought by the Medici Society, whose recent reproductions of the picture imply a brownish painting, which it never was. I had this picture, which traveled round to many exhibitions, both in England and abroad, for many years, and finally decided that I had made a mistake in changing the age of the male figure, I gave the boy the boot and put back the man. … While exhibited in the International Exhibition at Pittsburgh sometime between the 2 World Wars, it was badly injured (in colour) by the terrible acidity of that smoky atmosphere caused by the immense area nearby of Carnegie Steel Works. I had a terrible business in taking off the varnish to save it – and had to do some repainting. It was then I put the man back in his place. … And I do hope it may have again the title I gave it. I hate a title that localises a picture – just a view. Why not have a photograph if that’s what is wanted. The picture was previously catalogued as Spring in Cornwall.