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Like Linnell, Hunt was apprenticed to John Varley in 1806, and joined him in oil-sketching expeditions at Twickenham. This study of a riverside tree is typical of the humble subjects they chose when sketching outdoors at this date, but is more fluid in its handling than Linnell's examples. Hunt's subsequent career as a watercolourist was to lead him into a different branch of naturalism: his studies of flowers, still life and his popular paintings of birds' nests have a Pre-Raphaelite intensity of detail far removed from the impromptu feeling of this sketch.

September 2004