Penrose was a crucial figure in introducing Surrealism to Britain. He developed a type of word-and-image portrait in which the poetic and painted elements are mutually enriching. The abstract forms suggest, rather than depict, the subject while the ornate frame exaggerates the unconventional quality. When submitted for the United Artists exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1940, Portrait was rejected because the organisers considered some words offensive (presumably ‘arse’). In its place, Penrose submitted a painting of a group of hands, which were later discovered to spell ‘SHIT’ in sign language.