Prior to this work's re-emergence, only eight ink and wash drawings by O'Conor were documented (including examples in National Museum, Stockholm, Bristol City Art Gallery and Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford). Couched in a highly expressionistic style, these rare items were created by a brush charged with the same frenetic energy the artist observed in the windswept landscape of Finistre. Indeed, the parallel streaks of ink used here to denote tree trunks and roots are the monochrome equivalent of the Van Gogh-inspired 'stripes' of pure colour that distinguished O'Conor's oils of 1892-94.
Despite his affiliation with the Pont-Aven School of painters, O'Conor eschewed their flattened, decorative style in favour of the all-over rhythms of Van Gogh's nature-derived expressionism. In showing such an early appreciation and understanding of the Dutch painter O'Conor was ahead of his time. The existence of drawings such as the present work indicates a thorough-going knowledge that extended to Van Gogh's reed pen drawings, years before the latter were exhibited. The discovery was probably due to the Australian painter John Peter Russell, who received 13 reed pen drawings from Vincent in August 1888. Russell, based on the Breton island of Belle Isle, would become friendly with O'Conor in the 1890s.
The stark wintry subject of this composition is reminiscent of another ink drawing, Landscape with trees (Jonathan Benington, Roderic O'Conor: a biography with a catalogue of his work, 1992, no. 346), in which a felled tree and pollarded stump similarly testify to inclement weather.
We are grateful to Jonathan Benington for preparing this catalogue entry.