During the Second World War England offered refuge to thousands of political and racial victims of the Nazi Regime. Fleeing Germany in 1936, Schwitters sought refuge in Norway, but when the Nazis invaded he escaped to England. He was interned for seventeen months as a German Citizen, first in Edinburgh and then at Hutchinson Camp in Douglas on the Isle of Man.
This was a very creative period for Schwitters, as in the first camp he found himself surrounded by other intellectuals and artists, and the exchange of ideas inspired him greatly. He produced both abstract and figurative paintings, including portraits of the people he met.
The subject of this painting was identified as Georg Heller by another internee at the opening of the Schwitters exhibition at the Tate in 1985.