From 1949 on, Porter divided his time between the island in Maine and his home in Southampton, New York, on Long Island's south fork. In both locales, his compositions naturally incorporated water and beaches, although he produced a large number of paintings featuring room interiors as well as portraits of family and friends. In each one, his approach is as gentle and unassuming as his subject matter. They are images of quiet ordinariness, in whose familiarity he found beauty.
This painting demonstrates the manner in which Porter lyrically balanced narrative and formal concerns. In its muted coloring and familial atmosphere, "The Kittiwake and the John Walton" reflects the influence of the early-twentieth-century French artist Edouard Vuillard. Although based on a specific scene, the focus of the painting seems to be as much on the harmonious arrangement of color and shape as on the narrative elements of boats in the bay. The title of the painting refers to the names of two boats.