This drawing is from a sketchbook watermarked 'J WHATMAN 1824', used at Flatford in 1827. Other drawings from the same sketchbook are Reynolds, op. cit. nos. 27.12-27.39 and bear dates from 4 October up to 14 October 1827. The group includes other tree studies at Flatford, Stratford St. Mary and Dedham, and studies at Flatford Lock (see fig. 1), Old Bridge and Cottages, and Two Children on a Barge at Stratford. Reynolds records that Ian Fleming Williams had noted that, being accompanied by his children, Constable's movements were restricted by his need to keep a parental eye on them while they were fishing or playing near the water. Nevertheless he was able to make twenty-seven drawings on this visit (see Reynolds, op. cit., pp. 182-7, nos. 27.12 - 27.39, illustrated pls. 641-67).
It is indicative of Constable's need to keep in touch with nature that he should still be making such plein air sketches at this late stage in his career. The annotation 'Golden Moss' reflects his interest in the subtle effects of light on foliage.
The provenance of the present drawing is interesting. It was formerly in the collection of Charles Edmund Newton Robinson (1853-1913), an avid collector of Old Master paintings, and engraved gems and bronzes. His collection was probably inspired by his father, Sir John Charles Robinson, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures and First Superintendent of the art collection at the South Kensington Museum (later the Vitocira & Albert Museum). He was also key advisor to the art collector John Malcolm of Poltalloch (L. 1489), whose superb collection of Old Master drawings is for the most part at the British Museum, London. C.E. Newton Robinson also wrote poetry and was a keen sailor, and was a member of the British fencing teams at the Olympic Games in Paris (1900) and Athens (1906). In 1910 Newton Robinson gave a large collection of drawings to the Fizwilliam Museum, Cambridge, including three by Constable entitled Emma Hobson sitting Reading (G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London, 1996, p. 79, pl. 390, no. 06.46), A bridge across the River Avon (G. Reynolds, op.cit., p. 133, pl. 760, no. 09.27) and Warwick Castle seen through the trees (G. Reynolds, op.cit., p. 133, pl. 761, no. 09.28). The gift also included works by Rembrandt, Salvator Rosa, Stothard, Wilkie and De Wint among others. Other works from the Newton Robinson collection are in the British Museum and Tate Britain, London.
More recently this drawing was in the collection of the Norfolk painter Edward Seago, himself a master of the fleeting effects of light. His collection, sold in these Rooms, included works by Gainsborough, Wilson, Callow, Sargent, Stanley Spencer, Augustus and Gwen John, Duncan Grant, Laura Knight, F.C.B. Cadell and bronzes by Epstein.