Art inspired by the beauty of trees are one of the most common natural elements that art lovers collect. Whether paintings, photographs of trees, sculptures or other various types of media, there is no denying the wonder, power and inspiration of trees. People enjoy tree images because they’re often easy to incorporate into an existing gallery, due to how natural elements tend to flow well with both organic and inorganic subjects.
As a photographer, and lover of trees myself, I am inspired by the great painters who themselves turned to nature for inspiration, creating some of the masterpieces of our time that showcase the art of trees. I have had the honor of producing high quality wall art for thousands of clients over the past decade to be used as primary focal points in their homes and when it comes to popularity, without question, my tree photography art towers above all.
Telling Stories With Art
Both paintings and photographs can tell a story, though most of the time, paintings are more open ended along with the artist’s style and intent. Both art forms are connected, as photography aims to preserve a moment in time and an element of nature, like trees, exactly as they are at that time. Paintings take the sources of those same images and change them into a work of art that’s influenced by societal elements of the time, the artist’s mindset, and other factors that make the work unique.
When we think of history’s most famous paintings, masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper often come to mind. Taking a dive into the most famous tree paintings of all time provides us with a wealth of beautiful artwork, inspired by nature.
Seven Famous Tree Paintings
Trees are often used in art to symbolize new life, though the nature of the painting can place both positive and negative connotations on the points made. For example, a bright, blooming tree might be painted to celebrate the birth of a child or recovery from a long illness. On the other hand, dark, gnarled trees might display sorrow and melancholy surrounding the death of a loved one and the life that continues from that point on.
Let’s explore seven of the most famous tree paintings in existence to gain perspective on this type of symbolism.
Olive Trees with Yellow Sky & Sun by Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh barely needs introduction for even entry-level art enthusiasts, as he is well known for both the mental health struggles he suffered from during his lifetime, and the body of beautiful paintings he created. Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands but spent much of the latter part of his life in France.
Van Gogh created this painting during the time he spent in Saint Paul de Mausole Asylum, which is located in Saint Remy de Provence, France. The artist had just recovered from a recent illness and decided to go outside to take in the natural views, which included the olive trees included in his famous painting.
Cairn in Snow by Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th-century German artist who became famous for his symbolic landscape paintings. Often dark in tone, Friedrich’s paintings provoked thoughts and a search for deeper meaning due to the stirring imagery he used to make a statement.
Friedrich painted Cairn in Snow, an image capturing a pagan burial site among barren oak trees, in 1807. It’s a winter image, and as such, the trees are without leaves. The setting is quite somber and meaningful, illustrating a lonely area near a German town. Notice the stacked stones amongst the trees, which signify a secret burial area.
Avond (Evening) the Red Tree by Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian is a well-known Dutch painter who was one of the creators of De Stijl (“The Style”), a concept that placed emphasis on the power of abstract art. In the early 1900s, Mondrian expanded upon his current art style in ways that allowed him to express his unique talents through the use of colors and abstract shapes.
Possibly influenced by Van Gogh’s work, Mondrian completed Avond (Evening) the Red Tree in 1908. The image depicts a bright red tree against a deep blue background, which was part of what set him apart from other artists of his time. He embraced non-traditional painting and used colors that defied nature’s depictions of his subjects.
Almond Blossoms by Vincent Van Gogh
Appearing again in this list is Vincent Van Gogh, who painted another one of the world’s most famous tree paintings called Almond Blossoms. The image displays branches and blossoms of an almond tree set against a beautiful blue sky. He was influenced by Japanese printmaking during the creation of this piece, which was made as a gift for his brother and sister-in-law, who’d just had a baby. Van Gogh’s nephew, Vincent Willem (named after Van Gogh) later founded the Van Gogh Museum.
Forest in Autumn by Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a well-rounded French painter who captured his subjects using a Realist art style that defied traditional methods of the time. Many of his paintings in the 1840s gained him considerable success in the art world, and in addition to the beauty his work displayed, it often made social commentary as well. Courbet created portraits, still lifes, landscapes, nudes, and political subjects.
Forest in Autumn displays, as the title states, a forested area during the Fall season. As such, the painting contains rich orange, red, and yellow color elements. While it embraces Realism as a style, Courbet’s individual techniques shine through to enhance the whimsical tone of his landscapes.
Giant Redwood Trees of California by Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt, a 19th-century German-American artist, painted this famous image around 1874 when he was in his 40s. Part of what sets this painting apart from other landscape images of the time is Bierstadt’s perspective. Rather than using horizontal canvases to exhibit wide scenes, he used a vertical canvas to showcase the sheer height of the American redwood trees that inspired the creation of this painting.
La Grenouillere by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir created this Impressionist painting alongside his friend and fellow artist Claude Monet, a session that allowed each artist to create their own version of the same image. The painting depicts people on a floating dock in La Grenouillere, and the trees in the image serve as both a contrast to the water and a focal point for the image. It’s a classic painting that captures the depth of Renoir’s work.
Working with natural sources like trees gives those who appreciate art the ability to take a close look at the individualized elements that make one artist’s painting stand out from others. Despite having similar styles or being painted around similar times, trees are such a versatile subject that they enable the spirit and intent of the artist to shine.
Inspired By Nature | Tree Photography
I think it is safe to say that all humans, whether artists or not, are inspired by nature in one way or another. All of us stare up in wonder at the towering giants that offer beauty and the oxygen that fills our lungs. Since my very first days as a photographer I have explored the wonder of trees through the lens of my camera and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.