This was the first of many portraits by Sutherland, mostly of either friends or distinguished elderly people. He met Maugham, the famous novelist and dramatist, at St Jean Cap Ferrat, and was invited to paint his portrait. Maugham was then aged seventy-five. The bamboo stool and background colour, like that of the robes of Buddhist monks, were intended to refer to the setting of many of Maugham's novels and short stories in the Far East. The portrait was painted from drawings made by Sutherland during about ten one hour sittings with Maugham.