Sowing new seed was one of three large-scale allegorical works that Orpen painted between 1913 and 1916 which convey his attitudes to his Irish heritage. The scene is Dublin Bay, painted from Howth. The full-frontal female nude sprinkling seeds symbolises Orpen’s attempts to modernise Irish ideas about art. The two naked infants represent the receptive youth of Ireland, open to the new ideas.
Rose McPherson (Margaret Preston), acting as an overseas agent for the Art Gallery of South Australia, selected this work for purchase by the Gallery in 1914. However, conservative reaction to the nudity led the Gallery to exchange it with the artist for a portrait of Marshall Foch. In 1927, Orpen sold the painting to the Australian collector, RD Elliott, who eventually bequeathed it to Mildura.