A huge oak, bent and ancient, dominates the center of the painting. Jan Toorop rendered the crooked lines of the gnarled, hollow trunk in enormous detail. The fresh white of the hat to the lower right, draws our eye to the lady in a lilac dress, half-sitting beneath the tree. She has her back to the viewer and is lost in thought, as are many of Toorop’s subjects. The scene was painted on the country estate of Lissadel, Kenley, in Surrey, which belonged to Toorop’s in-laws. The woman in the painting is assumed to be his wife, Annie. ‘Old Oaks in Surrey’ dates from Toorop’s early Symbolist period. The restrained palette creates a harmonious, tranquil mood. The oil paint is very thinly applied. The broad areas of color and expressive, undulating lines display the influence of contemporary French painters, particularly Gauguin. Toorop was a member of Les XX in Brussels, a group of progressive Belgian artists. He must have paid close attention to the work of Gauguin, and that of the other invited artists, during their annual exhibition of 1889.
schenking Vereeniging tot het Vormen van eene Openbare Verzameling van Hedendaagsche Kunst te Amsterdam (VVHK) / gift of the Association for the Formation of a Public Collection of Contemporary Art in Amsterdam (VVHK)