Anna Airy was particularly admired as a draughtsman, and her interest in botanical studies was manifest from the earliest years of her career. In the catalogue to the 1952 exhibition of Airy’s work, in which the present sheet was included, Martin Hardie praised her ‘untiring patience, a Durer-like analysis, an almost Pre-raphaelite precision, in recording the minutest detail and the material structure and anatomy of living organism in pendant fruit, sprays of blossom, bees, birds, butterflies, struggling twigs or insect-eaten leaves.’ He noted in particular works such as the present sheet: ‘in the hedgerow pictures, in pen-and-ink with a wash of colour…the draughtsman-painter has had to weave a thousand intricate designs into one big living design. Nothing is blurred, nothing overstressed; all is the result of sheer honest observation and comprehension. Endless patience and endurance have clearly gone to the rendering of all the intricacies of form, the complexities of light and shade and colour, the thrust and growth, the turns and twists of leaf and twig, and (what her fellow-artists will perhaps best realize at the greatest problem) the turns and twists of the space between leaf and twig.’
This very large and impressive watercolour was the last work to be exhibited by Airy at the Royal Academy, where it was shown in 1956. It must, however, date from at least 1952, as it had been shown that year at the retrospective exhibition held at the R.B.A. Galleries in London.