This is one of the final drawings in Robert’s sketchbooks for his “Illness & Healing” series. Robert grew up in the Annapolis Valley, a farming region noted for its beautiful apple orchards. In his study, Robert shows the patient returning home, rising up from a wheelchair, holding onto a tree for support, as if he could pull some of the tree’s great vitality into his own being. Most of the orchard is sketched in a light outline. However the central figures and tree are carefully shaded, which draws attention to them.
In his earlier “Seal Upon Thine Heart” series, Robert had created a painting called Orchard, showing lovers meeting in a ghostly orchard at night. Love was portrayed as a kind of dangerous and secret trespassing. In contrast, the patient in the orchard, accompanied by two friends, suggests pilgrimage or reconciliation with nature. Like the painting, Healing, renewal comes about through a combination of friendship, the inspiration of nature, and the comfort of a familiar landscape.