Wadsworth began introducing more abstract forms into his nautical still lifes towards the end of the 1920s. In the following decade he made a number of abstract paintings, and 1932 became a member of Abstraction-Création, a Paris-based organisation of abstract artists.
This painting belongs to a series called Dux et Comes, a musical term used to describe choral roles in a fugue. It translates from the Latin as ‘leader and companion.’ The leader (soprano) sings in one key, the companion (alto) replies in another. Wadsworth’s series explored human relationships and moods, as indicated by subtitles, in this case Rebuff.