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280 × 210 × 23 mm
256 pages
203 illustrations, 189 in colour
11 Jun 2018

Trees in Art Charles Watkins

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 Dalí 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.

‘Charles Watkins draws on his deep knowledge of the history and ecology of arboreal art through the centuries . . . A fascinating tour of artists’ arboreal obsessions, Trees in Art will appeal to anyone interested in trees and the landscape.’ — Outdoor Photography

‘[a] fascinating book which explores every aspect of trees in art . . . Its thematic chapters range from a chronological walk-through of the work of early artists to the use of trees in representations of nationality, revolution and war; plus, a look at contemporary sculpture; a surprisingly compelling 20 pages on the practices of lopping and pollarding and, my favourite, a section on trees in mythology. You could learn a lot about things you might never thought would interest you, but which actually do.’ — Art Quarterly

‘As Charles Watkins makes clear in Trees in Art, especially after Claude and the rise of landscape in 18th-century Rome, trees often became mere devices for framing views. Ruskin felt it was virtually “hopeless” to paint “dark masses of laborious foliage”. Thankfully for us, artists from Giuseppe Arcimboldo to Max Ernst have given it a go.’ — World of Interiors

‘This extraordinary cross-disciplinary work is a remarkable piece of scholarship, full of fascinating knowledge and illustrated with an unexpected asssembly of visual material that confirms the richness of tree art across the ages.’ — The Generalist

‘Filled with paintings, drawings and illustrations, this book celebrates arboreal art from Salvador Dalí to David Hockney.’ — Garden Answers

‘Throughout history, art has captured understandings about the natural world that science can take millennia to explain fully. That plants, in all their incredible variety, have always inspired the visual and literary imaginations is confirmed, wonderfully, in [this] book.’ — The Australian

‘Jam-packed with illustrations, top quality photos and words, a fascinating compendium on the role trees have played in art.’ — Sara Lom, Chief Executive, The Tree Council

‘[a] wide-ranging survey . . . a useful book offering botanical insight and valuable sections on artists as diverse as Leonardo, Millais, Klimt, Corot, Lear and Gainsborough’ — Country Life

‘In this lavishly illustrated book, Charles Watkins explores the myth and magic of arboreal art, through thematic chapters which take an engrossing journey through centuries of artists' fascination with the tree's natural form.’ — The Countryman

‘With Corot’s stunning Fontainebleau, in the Forest on the cover and 203 illustrations on its 256 pages, Trees in Art might resemble a “coffee-table book”, but there is more depth to it than that. The author Charles Watkins, a professor of rural geography, has recently written two books on woods and forests and his knowledge shines through . . . a beautiful, fascinating and entertaining book, on quality papers, and well worth £35.’ — Scottish Forestry

‘It deals as much with how the artists interpreted and presented their subject as about the trees themselves . . . This is a book that will appeal to the forester and non-forester alike who are interested in trees and woods.’ — Quarterly Journal of Forestry

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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), ed. with Keith Kirby.