Nicholson and his companion, the novelist Marguerite Steen, on their last journey abroad visited La Rochelle in August 1938 returning to spend the winter there that year. Nicholson owned a copy of Jacques Callot’s famous print of the city under the siege of 1627-1628 and he was thrilled to be able to take lodgings in a building featured in the print.
The winter that year was a harsh one with plenty of snow and Nicholson made some beautiful snowscapes from his bedroom window looking across the old harbour. The present picture is closest to the view in the Tate, which is done with the snow still on the ground. The pale pastel tonality of Nicholson’s painting invites comparison with Whistler and makes these some of the most beautiful landscapes of his career.