The Art of Trees

Namibian rock art by San people, giraffes, hunters and a tree.
(http://donsmaps.com/africanart.html)

As we became more conscious of ourselves and the landscape we inhabited the tree played a part in our early art. This could be representing their form as a background to a story, as in hunting scenes by the San in Namibia or early Mesopotamians, or possible use as a marker by Australian aborigines to signify a sacred site. Representation over the years has been influenced by the tree’s innate symbolism (The Meme of Trees) as well as their natural beauty.

Early Mesopotamian hunting scene in the forest. Stone tablet (2250 – 2150 BC)

Aboriginal carvings most likely showing a sacred site in the area, New South Wales, Australia. (http://www.australiangeographic.com.au)

Drawing trees starts early for most of us…

We start building links to our environment at an early age and all of us would have drawn a tree at pre-school or while scribbling with crayons at home. Those who chose a life in art have given us a vision of trees in many different ways, and I shall be sharing some of them below.

View of la Crescenza, 1648-50. Claude Lorrain, oil on canvas.

With its disciplined simplicity, Japanese ink paintings have often provided scenes of contemplation and harmony. Persimmon Tree by Nakamura Hochu, early 19th century

The vivid colour of Vincent van Gogh. Peach Tree in Bloom, 1888.

Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life, 1908. “Ornament to Klimt is a metaphor of matter itself in a state of perpetual mutation, ceaselessly evolving, turning, spiralling, undulating, twisting, a violent whirlwind that assumes all shapes, zigzags of lightning and flickering tongues of serpents, tangles of vines, links of chains, flowing veils, fragile threads.” – Ludwig Hevesi, art critic

An example of American impressionism. Golden Afternoon by Childe Hassam, 1908.

The Three Sphinxes of Bikini, 1947. The U.S. conducted 23 nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll after WWII. This inspired Salvador Dali’s ‘Les Trois Sphinx de Bikini’. Is it a tree, a human head or a mushroom cloud?

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