In Pembrokeshire, Sutherland was particularly drawn to the small estuaries at Sandy Haven and Picton in the southern part of the county. The present work is most likely related to a number of works which take inspiration from an oak tree found along the bank of the estuary at Picton, where the instability of the banks, made up of soft shale and eroded by the tide, had caused the trees to grow into a variety of gnarled and contorted shapes in order to survive. In the present work, knotted roots and branches form the central motif, twisting into anthropomorphic shapes. Form over River from 1971-2, in the collection of the Tate, London, is most probably also inspired by this same tree.
Writing of the tree forms which inspired paintings such as the present work, Sutherland wrote: ‘the trees are eroded by the tide and wind and they are small oaks, really; I suppose you would call them dwarf oaks. They have the most extraordinarily beautiful, varied and rich shapes which detach them from their proper connotation as trees. One does not think of them so much as trees, more as figures; they have the same urgency that certain movements of figures can have in action’ (the Artist, The Listener, XCVIII, 1997, p.231, quoted in Ronald Alley, Graham Sutherland, Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1982, p.157).
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