Edward Wadsworth, the son of a magnate from the Bradford area, was raised in an industrial environment that was to appear in his works. He studied at the Slade School and took part in the activities of the Rebel Art Centre founded by Wyndham Lewis, which gave rise to the Vorticist movement. Wadsworth was interested in the writings of Wassily Kandinsky, which he translated for the magazine Blast No. I, and was also fascinated by the world of machines, which soon became the main motif in his painting. However, although he attended the dinner held in honour of Filippo Tomaso Marinetti at the Florence restaurant in London in 1913, Wadsworth shared Lewis’s reservations about Futurism.
According to Christopher Green, the present Vorticist Study, a composition clearly based on modern mechanization, should be dated to 1914, the beginnings of Vorticism. Richard Cork entitled it Study for a Vorticist Painting, as the technique employed, a combination of gouache and watercolour, and the range of colour resemble those of a study for Cape of Good Hope, an oil painting that is now lost. Mark Glazebrook, in his introduction to the Wadsworth exhibition at Colnaghi and Co. in 1974, believed it to be a study for another lost painting, The Port, included in the exhibition of Twentieth Century Art. A Review of Modern Movements, organised by David Bomberg at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1914, showing a geometrised aerial view of a port. Lastly, in his detailed text on the present study, Christopher Green considered it to be a mechanical composition that does not refer to any particular matter. Indeed, rather than relating to a specific theme, this composition of elaborate forms executed with the impersonal objectivity that characterises Wadsworth, illustrates what Ezra Pound defined as “the delight in mechanical beauty.”