Greenwood's early days were spent working in a mill, training as an artist only when time and money permitted until his employer, and owner of the mill, noted the young worker's innate artistic talent and financed his education at Wilbraham Academy. After studying oil painting for two semesters, he returned to Worcester, supporting himself teaching painting to young pupils. Greenwood's talent was recognized nationally when he was chosen as the only artist from the area to exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1905 the Worcester Art Museum mounted a one-man show of his paintings, choosing to highlight their local renowned artist instead of works by other landscape painters like Boudin, Corot, Enneking, and Inness.
Under the guidance of R. Swain Gifford and J. Appleton Brown, Joseph H. Greenwood became one of the most acclaimed landscape painters from Worcester, Massachusetts. His paintings, like Ancient Oaks,are almost exclusively of the hills and lakes surrounding his Massachusetts home, in which he took obvious joy in the unadorned intrinsic beauty of nature. Greenwood's early landscapes seem to reflect the Barbizon School of painting, and locally the artist was often compared to the French landscaper, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Many Greenwood paintings are undated, as is Ancient Oaks, but it is fair to presume that this painting was created around the same time as another similar landscape entitled Clearing-November. Both paintings share a heavier feeling than many other Greenwood landscapes, which is reflected in the darker skies and dominance of the glowing fall foliage.
Private Collection, Greenwich, CT