On 18 March 1871, just at the start of the Paris Commune which followed the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris, Alfred Robaut arrived in Paris to persuade Corot to join him in the north of France. Leaving the capital a week later they arrived in the north on 1 April, staying ten days in Arras before spending the rest of the month and the whole of May at Robaut’s house in Douai.2
This scene of a lake surrounded by trees was painted by Corot during that May while staying with the Robauts. The dominant tree to the left has given the picture its title. In the foreground three figures are huddled in a group. While many of the pictures painted by Corot when in the north of France are of specific sites, Robaut does not identify the location of this painting in his catalogue raisonné, and it seems likely that it is a studio work.