The Living Wood

The Poringland Oak c.1818-20 by John Crome 1768-1821

John Crome, “The Poringland Oak,” 1818-1820, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).

“Poets and painters have found in trees material for their art. If Gainsborough had been less successful as a portrait painter he would have given us some wonderful trees. As it is, in his few landscapes he has shown trees which are full of a kind of romantic vitality, springing full of life from the soil. Constable filled his great canvases with them, showing them in all their morning freshness as the kindliest feature of the English landscape. John Crome of Norwich painted trees with all the care which Gainsborough gave to portraits of fashionable ladies. In fact, his picture of the Poringland oak is a portrait. It shows all the physical details, the strength, stability and balance of the tree, and he has shown also its spiritual quality, something upstanding, fearless and ancient, which makes the bathers at the edge of the pool seem like mayflies of a day. It is just thise sense of reality, this glance at the transcience of human life, which the Frenchman, Corot, manages to evade. He found dreams among trees, but he casts a veil between himself and them as if he feared their strength, painting an ethereal beauty which had its roots in dream soil and not in the good earth.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1936

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One Response to The Living Wood

  1. nrhiller says:

    Such a beautiful tree in that painting. Swoon!

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