Along with Lawren Harris, MacDonald was a key initiator of the Group of Seven and one of its most outspoken members. This painting raised controversy when it was first exhibited in 1916. The artist was targeted for using such a large canvas for his relatively mundane subject. One critic even compared the painting to "a huge tomato salad." The artist’s design is very deliberate: the sunflowers bend in repeated patterns across the canvas, and his use of complementary colours is bright but balanced.