This remarkable depiction of an ancient oak on an estate in Kent resulted from a commission from Palmer’s mentor, the artist John Linnell. Palmer approached the oak in distinctly anthropomorphic terms. His spirited pen work captured what he described in a letter as the tree’s “muscular belly and shoulders; the twisted sinews”—from the dense textures of bark and knots to the exuberant curves of the branches. Dots of opaque watercolor, so thick they project from the sheet, lend an unearthly glow.
After meeting William Blake, who became a friend and mentor, in 1824, Palmer developed a form of Romantic landscape combining naturalist observation with a visionary style. This drawing depicts a view in Lullingstone Park, near the village of Shoreham in Kent. The artist focused on the giant oak in the foreground, suggesting the texture of its bark with a brilliant skein of dots, circles, and tiny scribbles. He conveyed light through an innovative application of yellow watercolor over white gouache, to which he applied gum arabic, imparting shine, and occasional dots of red watercolor.