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The Artist and the Tree

In honor of ’s whimsically rock-filled trees currently dotting Manhattan (explore our full feature of the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s exhibition here), we thought we’d take a brief survey of the history of artists and trees. Whether captivated by their formal beauty or drawn in by their spiritual symbolism, artists have turned to trees for inspiration for millennia. Read on for some of our favorite artistic musings on the subject, as well as some of our favorite depictions of trees over the centuries.
“To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another.”  —
“When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.” —
“In all of nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul.”—
“A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.” —
“A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods.” —
“I think the tree is an element of regeneration, which in itself is a concept of time.” —
“I suppose I would still prefer to sit under a tree with a picnic basket rather than under a gas pump, but signs and comic strips are interesting as subject matter.” —
“Your two-inch trees aren't realistic.” —, in reply to a viewer who asked why his huge, iconic trees weren’t painted realistically
“I love this landscape … particularly the trees, which are sometimes 130 years old. Gnarly. Almost like the windblown cypresses on the west coast. They fought for every inch of their lives. Very soulful.”  —
“Tree roots go down into the earth, the branches reach up, and the trunk stands in the middle; it’s almost like a person connecting the root and the branches. It’s as if the tree unites all: the ground, the sky, and the man in between.” —