Sutherland returned to Pembrokeshire in 1967 after an absence of over twenty years to record a programme for Italian television. He was fascinated by the distinctive landscape of the area, returning in 1968 for a longer visit. From this period until the end of his life, the motifs taken from the small estuarys at Sandy Haven and the private beach near Picton Castle (where the Graham Sutherland Gallery opened in 1976) dominated his work.
The present work is based on the idea of an oak tree along the bank of the estuary at Picton, where the force of the tide had undercut the banks of shale causing the tree to grow into twisted shapes in order to remain upright. Sutherland later commented (The Listener, XCVIII, 1977, p.231): 'The trees are eroded by the tide and wind and they are small oaks, really; I suppose you would call them dwarf oaks. They have the most extraordinary beautiful, varied, rich shapes which detach them from their proper connotation as trees. One does not think of them so much as trees, more as figures; they have the same urgency that certain movements of figures can have in action'.
Commenting on two compositions comparable to the present work, Trees with a G-shaped Form I, 1972 (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), and Form Over River, 1971-72 (Tate Gallery, London), Ronald Alley (Graham Sutherland, Tate Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, London, 1982, p.159) writes: 'They have become much more formalised and monumental, with an emphasis on spacious emphatic verticals and horizontals, contrasted with bold curving forms. When asked about this almost classical sense of balance in his late work, Sutherland explained: 'I have always felt a need for equilibrium. In my earlier groping way I found this difficult: even impossible. As I have become older, I have tried to control the unbalance - to control and place areas which were to me the most fascinating - in a more logical way and to allow the movements of the centres of the vitality to proliferate and repeat themselves as in a fugue (Johann Sebastian Bach: the 48 Preludes and Fugues are among my favourite things), but contained and controlled'.