In 1907 George Clausen exhibited The Little Brook at the Royal Academy. For this small picture, his easel was placed on the banks of a stream that meanders from a woodland glade into open country. Beyond the trees are a couple of thatched buildings in front of which farm-workers are starting to build a hayrick.
For Clausen, no Academy picture was a 'one off' statement. As with the French Impressionists, the process of development of a composition had no specific end-stop, and we must expect variations on the theme before and after the point at which The Little Brook was exhibited. Like Cézanne, Clausen would slightly move his easel; like Monet he might return on different days or different times of the same day.
However, the sequence that includes both The Little Pool (see lot 47) and The Rickyard: A Sunny Day came at a time when the painter was cut off from the Essex countryside which the works depict. In 1905, following his appointment as Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy Schools, he had moved to London. Having been an Associate member since 1895, he was elected as a full Academician in 1908, and with this came a host of other teaching, lecturing and committee appointments. To add to the pressure, he had agreed to stage a solo exhibition with Messrs Ernest Brown and Phillips at the Leicester Galleries in 1909. Although motivated by a strong sense of public duty, he was coming to resent the degree to which these ate into his time in the studio and return trips to his Essex stamping grounds were often restricted to weeks during the summer when he would rent a room at Prior's Hall Farm at Widdington.
Small paintings such as The Little Pool could be painted on the spot, on these occasions. He was fascinated by the fall of sunlight through the trees - the leitmotif of The Gleaners Returning (Tate Britain), his Chantrey Bequest purchase of 1908. 'When a man studies nature out of doors', he told an interviewer, 'he sees how evanescent is the play of light ' Then he pointed to a pile of canvases 'all commenced in the open air, and unfinished because of changing light conditions'. Dappled shade was combined with the myriad reflections in a brook in the foreground of both present canvases, taking the eye off to a rickyard where, in full sunlight, one or two men are at work. Rick building had been a favourite motif definitively treated in 1907, but it was one to which he was destined to return. Hayricks would have to be propped up during the autumn storms and taken down at the height of winter to provide bedding and animal feed. These were simple processes worthy of celebration. For the present however, they functioned at a distance - literal in the present pictures, and metaphorical in the larger sense of the London exile weighed down by the demands of public office.