The resulting oil painting, Hayes Common, is slightly smaller than Sandby’s Beech Tree. The artist has painstakingly traced the spread of the branches, with almost every leaf being given its distinctive shape. The gnarled and embossed trunk is equally carefully studied. Oaks were known for their longevity, and regarded as symbols of history and of national identity. William Henry Millais’s decision to include the little girl may have been an attempt to make the painting more saleable, but it also underlines the contrast between the human lifespan and that of the tree, which has seen centuries come and go.
Hayes Common was rejected by the Royal Academy – probably because the more conservative members of the Academy disliked the bright greens of Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting – and William Henry Millais seems to have been discouraged. At any rate, he never painted anything so ambitious again.