Isabel Bishop was born in Cincinnati but moved East in 1918, where she enrolled at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and then the Art Students League, beginning in 1920. In the city - especially in the area around Union Square - Bishop was inspired by the bustle of urban life, particularly by the young women of New York, who were entering the work force in ever increasing numbers. In paintings and prints, Bishop explored both the women and the men of New York, as they interacted with their jobs, each other, and the city.
Although Bishop's subject may be modern, the technique she chose for this painting recalled those of the old masters, whose work she discovered after a trip to Europe in 1931. The use of egg tempera (the combination of pigments dissolved in egg yolk) was employed in European painting before the widespread dominance of oil-based pigments in the seventeenth century. Not only did the exacting process account for the delicate glazes visible in the painting, it also demanded an extraordinary amount of time. Bishop sometimes spent nearly an entire year working on a single painting, belying the simple ephemeral quality of the finished work.