Patrick Heron's early work was influenced by Matisse and Braque but in 1956 he turned exclusively to abstract painting following the emergence of the American Abstract Expressionists. In particular, he adopted the use of large fields of colour which Mark Rothko had made a distinctive feature of his work.
Colour was one of Heron's passions. He had written in the late 1940's in the New Statesman: "It is obvious that colour is now the only direction in which painting can travel."
The paint surface in Four Vermilions (and in its companion piece Orange and Lemon with Whites) is very smooth, with little evidence of brushstrokes. This heightens the impression of flat space in which form and rhythm generate powerful effects. The shapes often evoke the contours of the moors, cliffs and boulders in his adopted home in Cornwall.