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Bodycolour - Ancient Beech Tree
  • Ancient Beech Tree
    Sandby, Paul, born 1731 - died 1809
  • Enlarge image

Ancient Beech Tree

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1794 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sandby, Paul, born 1731 - died 1809 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bodycolour on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case R, shelf 88, box R

Paul Sandby (1730-1809) painted this watercolour in an unknown location. It is one of his most powerful and striking works, almost a portrait of a tree.

Sandy painted a similar landscape that is now in the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, USA. This has been recognised as showing a view of Bridgnorth seen from the other side of the River Severn in Shropshire.

Physical description

Bodycolour landscape entitled 'Ancient Beech Tree'.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1794 (painted)


Sandby, Paul, born 1731 - died 1809 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Bodycolour on paper


Height: 42 cm, Width: 58.4 cm, Height: 680 mm Gilt frame, Width: 840 cm Gilt frame

Descriptive line

Paul Sandby (About 1730-1809), 'Ancient Beech Tree', 1794, bodycolour

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Anne Anderson, Tim Craven, Della Hooke. Steve Marshall, Ian Massey, Under the Greenwood. Picturing the British tree from Constable to Kurt Jackson ISBN: 9781908326300
p. 32
p.18, pl.7
Coombs, Katherine British watercolours : 1750-1950 . London: V&A Publications, 2012
Bonehill, John and Daniels,Stephen (eds.), Paul Sandby : Picturing Britain London : Royal Academy of Arts, 2009

Labels and date

[Provisional label written by Ronald Parkinson for his travelling exhibition and accompanying book British Watercolours at the Victoria and Albert Museum, V&A Publications, 1998.]

Paul SANDBY R.A. (1730-1809)
Signed and dated P.Sandby 1794
70.2 x 105.7 cm
Purchased before 1860
FA 383

One of Sandby's most powerful and striking works, this is in effect a 'portrait' of a magnificent tree. Its massive twisted trunk and its many branches dominate the composition and dwarf the figures in the foregound. The figures consist of two men, one holding a hat apparently filled with mushrooms, with a young girl, and a man and a woman in a donkey cart riding on the path towards the river.

There are several drawings of ancient trees by both Paul Sandby and his brother Thomas. Such trees, apart from their majestic appearance, were also natural objects of curiosity. For instance, a great beech tree in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where both artists worked, was supposed to have been so enormous that a woodman, his wife and four children, a sow and several pigs, lived in its trunk. When it was eventually cut down, the residue left on the wood by the burning of peat by the family provided, so the story goes, the Sandbys with a good supply of bistre pigment for their paintings and drawings.

The location has not been identified, but there is a similar landscape by Sandby in the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven which has been recognised as a view of Bridgnorth seen from the other side of the River []

Production Note

Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795, no.579, as 'Morning'.


Paper; Opaque Watercolour



Subjects depicted

Landscape; Beech


Drawings; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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