Wallis, a retired seaman, took up painting in the mid-1920s to relieve the loneliness he felt after the death of his wife. His subjects were based on memories of life at sea and the town and harbour of St. Ives, Cornwall. He painted child-like images on a variety of discarded materials using household or ship's paint. This gave his work a roughness and directness that artists such as Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood found appealing. 'Two-Masted Ship', for example, is painted on the reverse of a G.W.R. cheap fare schedule for 1928. The ship is a brigantine, many of which were used as trading vessels in the latter half of the nineteenth century until 1920. The lighthouse is probably the Eddystone, off Plymouth.