Coldstream studied at the Slade School of Art and then tried to make his living as a professional artist. Shortage of money, however, forced him to teach and, from 1934 to 1937, to work with the pioneering documentary film-maker, John Grierson, at the GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit. In 1937 Coldstream and others founded the Euston Road School of Drawing and Painting. This was Coldstream's first portrait on his return to full-time painting. It was commissioned by the sitter's husband and painted at the Burgers' flat in Upper Park Road, Hampstead. The portrait surived the bombing of Burgers' flat during the war.