Trees in 19c British & American Art by Professor Christiana Payne
16 January 2020
Report by Will Vaughan
Christiana Payne, Professor of the History of Art at Oxford Brookes University, has had a distinguished career researching British landscape art and genre painting of the nineteenth century. In recent years she has been exploring the representation of trees and the significance that they had for artists and amateurs in the period. Her recent book, Silent Witnesses; Trees in British Art 1760-1870, focussed on the work of British Artists, but in this lecture she extended the theme to cover American artists of the period as well.Perhaps it was as a reaction to the growing urbanization caused by the Industrial Revolution that artists in the late eighteenth century became increasingly involved in representing the natural world. Trees particularly fascinated them for their nobility and the sense that they were silently bearing witness to the splendours of nature. It is a fascination, Professor Payne reminded us, that has remained with us. This is largely because the problems created by industrialization have not gone away. Indeed they have become greater and more serious, as the present day environmental crisis makes clear to us. From this point of view the tree painters of the nineteenth century can be seen as pioneers of a movement that flourishes amongst us with increasing urgency. While focussing on nineteenth century tree painting, Professor Payne made us aware the continuation of the tradition they promoted, showing a fine tree photograph by contemporary artist Tacita Dean, and making reference to the arborealist group of painters who flourish today in the west country. She also displayed a copy the ‘Charter for Tree, Woods and People’ issued by the Woodland Trust in 2017 to promote the presentation and development of trees at the present time of crisis.
Above all Christiana Payne made us aware of the beauty and skill of tree studies. Prime amongst these, in my opinion, are the wonderful pencil studies made by John Constable, in which he explored the minute features of different species. A dedicated naturalist, Constable was keen to observe the features of individual trees that he knew, particularly those on the banks of his native river Stour, and the stately elms in Old Hall Park East Bergholt.
Once again the Bruton Art Society has enjoyed the pleasure of a talk by Colin Wiggins, former lecturer and curator of special exhibitions at the National Gallery. Colin is well known for the high quality of his lectures, in which he combines entertainment and information in his own unique manner. Last time he spoke to us four years ago, he told of his activities at the National Gallery, in which he encouraged leading contemporary artists like Peter Blake, Sean Scully and Paula Reago to produce works that engaged with major works in the Gallery’s collection. This time he was inviting us to look again at the seasonal theme of Winter Landscapes, with a particular emphasis on snow scenes.
He took us from the earliest representations of snow in the late middle ages – in such exquisite works as the Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry – to fascinating colour explorations of Monet and other Impressionists. He also brought in treatments outside the European tradition, in particular the marvellous winter scenes of Japanese woodcut artists like Hokusai.
A Rural documentary; Painting and Drawing Farmers in Somerset’
Today Kate Lynch gave us a fascinating lecture and presentation of her paintings. While showing us her pictures her talk was entirely about her twenty plus years of meeting, drawing and painting the mainly disappearing and always changing lives of those who work on the land in Somerset.
In his talk on Eight Contemporary Painters which He gave to a very well supported meeting following our AGM, Dr Chris Davies gave us a most informative and interesting talk about eight contemporary painters as he explored the continuing practice of painting by these artists at a time when there has been a movement in some art school circles to denigrate its importance. Continue reading 17-1-2019 Dr Chris Davies and our AGM→
Our next Bruton Art Society lecture is entitled OUT OF THE BLUE and will be given by Alexandra Drysdale. Members and non-members are most welcome.
Alexandra is an art historian, artist and experienced NADFAS lecturer.
We are looking forward to seeing you at the Christmas Party on Thursday 1 December (2.30 p.m) We will be having the traditional fare and will be taking the occasion to welcome new members and thank our helpers at the exhibition.
There will as well be a lecture by Juliet Heslewood on Painters in Provence. CHANGE OF VENUE Continue reading BAS Lecture and Christmas Party 1st Dec→
Thurs 21st January at 2.30 p.m. at Caryford Hall (BA7 7JJ) We do encourage you to come to this. It is the time when you can voice your opinions about the society and vote members onto the committee. This year we will be presenting a revised constitution for the Society.