Whiteleaf Cross is in Buckinghamshire near Henton, and the large carved chalk cross overlooks the vale of Aylesbury from Whiteleaf hill. Dating to the early 1700s, although possibly earlier still, the cross measures 85 foot high and 79 foot wide.
Nash represented the cross on several occasions in his work, including a 1931 oil painting Whiteleaf Cross (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester), for which the present lot is possibly a study. Nash returned to this subject matter on several occasions: another watercolour in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London, is dated 1922. The cross fascinated Nash and appealed to his interest in man's ancient relationship with the English countryside, and this symbol united his expression of the archaic landscape with that of modern surrealism.