Four Times Trees took Cen­ter Stage in Art His­to­ry

Along with pro­vid­ing  food, shade, green­ery and oxy­gen, trees have long served as a pil­lar of in­spi­ra­tion. They have silent­ly stood by while hu­mankind has pro­gressed, and giv­en us the spark to move for­ward. An ap­ple tree was re­spon­si­ble for giv­ing us New­ton’s the­o­ry of grav­i­ty, when a falling ap­ple fell on the Eng­lish sci­en­tist’s head. Like­wise they have in­spired fa­mous names in sci­ence, art and Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture in­clud­ing writ­ers like Faulkn­er, Ker­ouac, Wel­ty and Whar­ton.

One very fa­mous de­pic­tion of a tree in the his­to­ry of art is by none oth­er than famed artist Van Gogh. Paint­ed in Oc­to­ber 1889, an oil on can­vas paint­ing named Mul­ber­ry Tree fea­tures — yep, you’ve guessed it — a sin­gle gold­en Mul­ber­ry tree is one of the artist’s best works. He paint­ed the famed tree be­tween epilep­tic at­tacks, and an asy­lum in Saint-Rémy he checked him­self in­to. mulberry-tree

In an am­bi­tious project, art duo Chris­to and Jeanne-Claude wrapped trees with 592,015 square feet (55,000 square me­ters) of wo­ven poly­ester fab­ric. The project took around 10 days to com­plete and left on the trees for an­oth­er 3 weeks. The poly­ester bil­lowed in the wind, cre­at­ing “dy­nam­ic vol­umes of light and shad­ow and mov­ing in the wind with new forms and sur­faces shaped by the ropes on the fab­ric.”

 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Trees

Sculp­tures with branch­es, with or with­out leaves or flow­ers, makes reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances in the art com­mu­ni­ty. But it was in 2009, Roxy Paine’s most am­bi­tious work, Mael­strom, that took New York’s breath away. Sit­ting on top of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­se­um of Art, it gave view­ers the sense of be­ing im­mersed in the midst of a cat­a­clysmic force of na­ture.

Roxy Paine’s Maelstrom

Over a hun­dred years old, this time­less work of art, known as Au­tumn Trees, is a prod­uct of Egon Schiele. It now be­longs to a pri­vate col­lec­tor, and is an echo of his por­traits fea­tur­ing spindly limbs of nude mod­els and him­self.