Inspired by Birmingham 2022 Festival’s theme of Nature, programmed around the Commonwealth Games, this display explores our enduring fascination with trees. As some of the most prominent, appealing and even essential features of a landscape, trees have a distinctive presence in works by a great variety of artists. Artists have studied trees to develop their powers of observation, used them as compositional devices and to chart the changing seasons. Perhaps more subtly, they may function as political or legal signs marking, for instance, the boundaries of rural properties. Trees have also been depicted as monuments to history, heritage and culture.
This display begins with the Netherlandish landscape tradition of the 1600s and continues with examples of some of the developments across Western Europe over the next two centuries. Together, these prints and drawings from the Barber’s collection offer some insights into the many roles of, and approaches to, trees over different periods and geographies. The Barber’s paintings can expand this exploration; look out for our landscape paintings, particularly those by Claude and Ruisdael in the Red Gallery. These historic works may inspire us to spend more time outside and to reflect on the importance of trees in our lives. We certainly need to consider more thoughtfully our ever evolving and increasingly perilous relationships with the natural world.
Display curated by Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator
Thank you to Jack Davies, Tree Surgeon, for his insights