Friday, June 01, 2007

Samuel Palmer's Tree

On a lunchtime stroll in Holland Park (London's loveliest, I reckon) I came across a strangely moving scene. A father and two young children, assisted (amazingly) by a municipal employee, were planting a horse chestnut sapling that the children had raised from a conker. This was to replace a mature horse chestnut that had fallen in a storm.
The horse chestnut is, of course, Samuel Palmer's tree (the same goes, in spades, for the blossoming cherry tree). Having once absorbed Palmer's tree, it's no longer possible to see a living horse chestnut except through the Palmer filter. Does this, I wonder, make the tree more or less itself? What was it before Palmer drew it? Did it take Palmer to fully see it for the first time, and pass on its essence to us? I suspect the last is the case, and that the tree is therefore more itself, more real.
Any opinions? And any other trees/flowers/plants similarly affected? Van Gogh sunflowers obviously - Constable elms - Gainsborough oaks? - Corot poplars - C├ęzanne eucalyptus - Mackintosh honesty... More?


  1. why amazingly assisted by a park employee? we can't have any tom, dick and harry planting what they like in our public parks!

    when in london, I prefer the london plane. no idea if anyone's painted them.

  2. I dunno - you try and raise the tone, and along comes Brit with his urinals...
    Meanwhile, the London plane, I think, still awaits its Palmer.

  3. Michael Mann and LA at night (Heat, Collateral)...

  4. Van Gogh- Wheat Fields & cypresses.
    Hokusai- Mount Fuji
    Just a thought about Toledo of which El Greco has a rightly famous painting here, though El Greco took the slightly controversial liberty of changing the layout of the city to suit the painting.

  5. Tolkien wrote an essay about the writer as a "secondary creator" who assists God in the continuous flowering of being, i.e. the physical reality is not an inert given, but was intended to be transformed & made ours by our love of it. So artists continue creation. Though i suppose you could be a murderer & an artist at the same time...

  6. we all see the tree - and the painting, presumably - differently. therefore the tree is always greater than each of us can imagine it. that's my view.

    it's quite possibly your view is superior to Palmer's as he didn't have the benefit of yours. ;o)

  7. On topic. The pixie tree in KPG. A tree as dead as the dodo. But to see the its delight to children restarts a little something.