Júlíana Sveinsdóttir painted her first picture in the Westman Islands in 1912, depicting Ystiklettur. This painting, From the Westman Islands, is among the first Júlíana painted in her childhood home in 1946, after having lived in Denmark for nine years.
Björn Th. Björnsson explains the painting's origin thus: “In the war years, Júlíana was still living in Denmark, and so for a long time she was unable to return home. When ... she visited her childhood haunts, the weathered cliffs of the Westman Islands with their caps of dark green, it was as if she saw everything in a new light. And her paintings from the Islands in the summer of 1946 are without a doubt the pinnacle of her artistic career up to that point. There she eradicates every unnecessary detail and perceives a cold majesty in one all-encompassing glance. The cold and greenish-grey sea in the sound lies like a fierce beast between the land and the Outer Cliff. On the landward side dark eroded rock reaches out, while on the other side of the deep rises the cliff, its face riven with deep shadows – this ancient bulwark of the Islands, the storms of the ages written in its countenance. As the mighty powers of the sea and air here constrain their rage, so the palette of the painting is strictly subdued, limited to grey, green-blue and brown – but lurking underneath is constant tension, seeking to overthrow the constraint. Júlíana herself remarked of this period: ‘It was as if my hand was being guided. I painted in a single sitting, without changing a single brushstroke, and it was as is my every perception was automatically written on the canvas –and I had always found it so difficult to paint.’ ” (Björn Th. Björnsson: Íslenzk myndlist á 19. og 20. öld (Icelandic Art in the 19th and 20th centuries) I, p. 169–171).