The Views Are Tree-mendous

When you visit the DMA this fall, you’ll have the opportunity to see Van Gogh and the Olive Groves, the first exhibition dedicated to Vincent van Gogh’s series of olive grove paintings!  

These paintings capture the abundant olive trees around the asylum of Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh spent the final year of his life. But he was not the only artist that took inspiration from nature. There are many depictions of trees in our collection; take some time to see how many you can find!  

To help you, I’ve put together a tour of trees featuring 11 of my favorites currently on view. Starting on Level 1 in the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, look for this 17th-century dish from Iran among the many ceramics displayed in this gallery. 

Dish, Iran, 17th century, fritware, underglaze-painted in black, blue, turquoise, and brown, with red and yellow slips, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.653

Across from the Keir Collection, step outside into the Fleischner Courtyard, named after the artist Richard Fleischner, who designed this space for the DMA’s move to this location in 1983. These are not the original trees, as the courtyard has been refurbished twice since the 1980s—in 1993 and 2009.

Richard Fleischner, Courtyard Project for the Dallas Museum of Art, 1981–83; reconfigured by the artist for the Hamon addition, 1993; refurbished 2009, limestone, marble, wood, and plantings, Dallas Museum of Art, commissioned to honor Minnie and Albert Susman on the occasion of their 50th anniversary by their children Robert F. and Anna Marie Susman Shapiro, 1983.14, © Dallas Museum of Art, 

Next, head to Level 2 and our European Art Galleries to find the grove of oak trees in the Forest of Fontainebleau by Narcisse Diaz de la Peña. The artist was part of the Barbizon School of French painters, whose goal was to rediscover the magic of untouched nature.

Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1868, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1991.14.M

Leaving the dark forest behind, take in the bright colors of Claude Monet’s poplar trees. Poplars, Pink Effect belongs to a series of 24 paintings; like Van Gogh, Monet often revisited the same subject multiple times to capture varying light and weather conditions.

Claude Monet, Poplars, Pink Effect, 1891, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., bequest of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 2019.67.14.McD

Before leaving Level 2, look for an apple tree painted by Piet Mondrian. Through his use of line and color, Mondrian conveyed nature’s dynamic energy.

Piet Mondrian, Apple Tree, Pointillist Version, 1908–09, oil on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation, 1982.26.FA

Did you know Winston Churchill was also an artist? If you visit the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection on Level 3, you will find several paintings by Churchill, including Sea and Pine Trees, Cap d’Ail

Winston Churchill, Sea and Pine Trees, Cap d’Ail, about 1955, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.14, © The Churchill Heritage Limited

As you continue exploring Level 3, take a moment to stop and appreciate the standing male figure from Vanuatu. While not a literal depiction of a tree, it was carved from the lower part of a tree-fern stem and stands over 11 feet tall! 

Standing male figure, Vanuatu, Ambrym Island, about 1930–50, tree fern and pigment, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1996.33

Now make your way to the Arts of Africa Galleries and look for the linguist staff (okyeame poma) from the Asante peoples of Ghana. The finial on this staff refers to an Asante proverb that states, “One who climbs a good tree always gets a push.”

Linguist staff (okyeame poma), Ghana, Asante peoples, 1900–50, wood and gold leaf, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2010.1.McD

Head to Level 4 and find Veteran, a painting by Everett Spruce (bonus tree points!). The tree in this painting shows us the often uncompromising and inhospitable forces that shape the Texas landscape.

Everett Spruce, Veteran, 1932, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Maggie Joe and Alexandre Hogue, 1986.232, © V. Alice Spruce Meriwether

Around the corner from Veteran, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Bare Tree Trunks with Snow give us a more minimalist and abstract version of trees. O’Keeffe would often simplify what she saw in nature, using descriptive titles to clarify things for the viewer.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Bare Tree Trunks with Snow, 1946, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1953.1, © The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The final tree on this walk through the woods is in the free special exhibition Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico. George López’s sculpture Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life shows the moment when Eve offers Adam an apple from the tree of knowledge—and it is made of wood from three different trees: cottonwood, pine, and cedar!

George López, Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life, 1956, cottonwood, pine, and cedar, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1956.100.1

Stacey Lizotte is the DMA League Director of Adult Programs at the DMA. 


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