A Twopeny Portfolio: #10 Trees in Woodstock Park, Kent

This is the tenth work of twenty-five bought in a lot of Sundry Drawings and Watercolours, offered at Anderson & Garland Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 March 2-17, lot 46 as Various Artists (British 19th Century) Sundry drawings and watercolours, mainly topographical and floral studies, including a grisaille “South Gate Lynn, Norfolk”, bearing the signature J.S. Cotman, various sizes, all unframed in a folio.

Here we continue to work through a sequence of five fine pencil drawings, all dated 1828, once mounted in an album, and some numbered in the original page order.

? David [later Revd.] Twopeny (1803-1875)
Tree study in the Park at Woodstock, near Sittingbourne, Kent, 1828
Pencil on medium-weight, off-white, handmade, Whatman-type, rag, wove paper, 165 x 257 mm.
Inscribed with date in pencil, lower left edge by the artist, ‘July 16, 1828-‘.
Subsequently stuck down on a backing sheet of softer, lower quality, handmade, off-white rag wove paper, 266 x 374 mm, with two pencil keylines and inscribed, lower left, with title ‘At Woodstock, nr. Sittingbourne, Kent’. Numbered ‘3)’ on the verso.

This is a painstakingly-drawn landscape with a lone tree, possibly an oak, in the left foreground, in an open, sheep-cropped parkland, looking across a shallow valley to an upslope in the middle distance, where the trees form an open forest, and two female figures stroll down a track from the right.

This is the fourth of five drawings all by the same hand, on similar paper and similarly mounted and inscribed. We have previously explored the connection of the Twopeny family to the locations, and the connection of David Twopeny in particular to the drawings.  The present drawing bears the same date, 16 July 1828 as the previous drawing of Woodstock House. The drawing of the house was made in the afternoon, and this appears to have been drawn with the sun near its zenith. It is plainly a warm enough day for some of the sheep to have sought the shade of the tree.

It seems possible that the track is the same as that rising to the right of the previous drawing. In that case Woodstock House would be just out of composition, beyond trees to the right.

There are more parallels with Cotman here, in that the artist here seems to have been more interested in the trees than the architecture. When Cotman visited some of the grandest country houses in Yorkshire in 1805, Castle Howard amongst them, he ignored the architecture for sequestered corners of their parkland. The trees at Woodstock at this time must have been particularly fine. The estate dated back hundreds of years, and seems on the evidence of these drawing to have been dotted with splendid specimens. Undergrazed by sheep they would have been wonderfully set off by a short turf. Sadly if the grazing continued for any great length of time, it would have prevented new saplings getting established. Most of the parkland shown here is now open arable fields, with only slight hints now remaining of its nineteenth century character. The odd mouldering oak amidst a sea of bioculture.

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