In this superbly illustrated book, Charles Watkins explores the myth and magic of arboreal art. Enter the groves of the classical world, from Daphne's metamorphosis into a laurel tree to the gardens of Pompeii. The tree in sacred art is represented in master works by Botticelli and Michelangelo. The oak as a symbol of nationhood and liberty across Europe is revealed. The mystery and drama of forest interiors, the formal beauty of avenues of trees, the representation of forestry over the ages and the world of `more than real' trees in the fantastic and surreal art of Arcimboldo, William Blake, Arthur Rackham and Salvador Dali are each illuminated in fascinating detail, coming right up to date with Giuseppe Penone and Ai Wei Wei. Watkins also elucidates the practice of genius in how artists learned to draw trees. Each thematic chapter takes a breathtaking journey through centuries of artists' engagement and fascination with a natural form that seems to allegorize or mirror the human journey through life. Drawing on the author's deep knowledge of the history and ecology of trees, Trees in Art shows that we can learn much about ourselves from the art of trees.
1 Depicting Trees before 1800
2 Drawing and Painting Trees after 1800
3 Trees and Ancient Stories
4 Lops and Pollards
5 Sacred Trees
6 Nationality, Revolution and War
7 European Forest Interiors
8 Trees and Timber
9 Western Art Abroad
10 More than Real Trees
Charles Watkins is Professor of Rural Geography at the University of Nottingham. His recent books include Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque (2012) with Ben Cowell, Trees, Woods and Forests: A Social and Cultural History (Reaktion, 2014) and Europe's Changing Woods and Forests (2015), edited with Keith Kirby.
"No coffee-table book this, all flashy pictures and minimal text, which is not to say that Trees in Art isn’t aesthetically pleasing, because its thick pages and exquisite colour reproductions make it a delight to leaf through. Unlike many coffee-table books, the carefully selected images actually correspond to those discussed in the text, each chosen to illustrate a pertinent point about humankind’s relationship with trees. At first sight, Trees in Art is, then, a cut above its competition, being a proper academic book complete with references, bibliography and index. Don’t let that put you off, through, because it is also immensely readable. [...] Art aside, the great strength of this book is Watkins’ text, which brings a forester’s eye to arboreal art through the ages and provides an illuminating insight into the contexts in which it was made."
– Clare Gibson, Living Woods Magazine 50, Winter 2018