By the 1930s, Jacob Epstein had established himself as Britain's most renowned and most controversial modernist sculptor. Lilies, however, was painted in one of the periods when he devoted himself solely to painting and drawing. At these times the artist would throwaway his sculptor's tools and take up pencils and brushes. In his autobiography, Epstein said:
. . . Later I was to repeat this frenzy of painting, only with flowers. I had been asked to paint some blooms by a firm of Dutch dealers in old masters. I said I would paint twenty and in the end I painted sixty. Not content with this, I went on painting, giving up sculpture for the time being, and painted three hundred more. I lived and painted flowers. My rooms were piled with flowers, and this was a wonderful and colourful period.
I was of course, told that the shoemaker should stick to his last. A sculptor is supposed to be a dull dog anyway, so why should he not break out in colour sometimes and in my case I'd as soon be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Blake says, 'The Gateway of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom'.
Lilies at Carrick Hill is a watercolour painted during one of these painting 'frenzies' and it displays the wonderful spontaneity experienced by the artist during this 'wonderful and colourful' period. He uses vigorous, bold, rhythmic patterns of colour, and even though he restricts himself to a two-dimensional plane surface, he still sees and portrays his subject from a many-angled perspective.
Garden lilies and liliums were Lady (Ursula) Hayward's favourite flowers; it is no wonder that Epstein's portrayal of them found pride of place at Carrick Hill.