They say the best time to plant a tree was 20/30/80 years ago, and the second-best time today. But definitely the best time to see an exhibition on the tree in art is winter 2022/2023…at Lower Belvedere’s Grow exhibition.
- Explores various roles played by the tree throughout art history
- Features works from medieval times to the 21st century
- Over 100 paintings, sculptures and installations
- Runs Sept 23, 2022 – Jan 8, 2023
- See also:
The tree in art
(Emilie Mediz-Pelikan, Blooming chestnut trees, 1900; press photo © Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna)
When one sees an autumnal tree in summer, it is an intense experience that involves one’s whole heart and being; and I should like to paint that melancholy
So wrote Austrian artist, Egon Schiele, back in 1913.
Trees have slipped quietly into some of Europe’s greatest artworks. Think of Monet’s poplars.
Or the cypress tree in Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
Or the orange trees in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
Or any number of Bruegels.
Or even images of Yggdrasil, the huge ash tree at the very centre of the Viking cosmos.
The tree has always provided artists, however, with far more than a mere landscape feature or background: the tree serves as a symbol, a sign, a personification, a message bearer, a challenge, a protector, an inspiration…the list goes on.
Botticelli’s orange trees, for example, perhaps offer a hint that the Medici family might have commissioned the painting.
You won’t find The Birth of Venus in the Grow exhibition at Lower Belvedere, but you will discover other works that span several hundred years of creative endeavour: from the 1400s through to the contemporary.
So, for example, a section on the tree as religious motif has early-16th century paintings on the fall of man from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder. Just a few steps away…Liza Lou’s bead-studded sculptures of Adam and Eve from 2004.
(Nilbar Güres, Headstanding Totem, 2014; press photo © Nilbar Güres / Belvedere, Vienna)
The art from such different genres and eras shares the tree as a commonality, allowing us to see the various role(s) the motif plays in art history and its sociocultural relationship to humanity.
The eclectic mix includes some thought-provoking pieces. Take August Roth’s 1906 painting in the area dealing with trees as a measure of transience and the passing of time.
Children’s Round Dance has a veneer of pastel innocence, were it not for the musician accompanying the dancing children on his violin: death standing beneath the autumnal trees.
The sections dealing with trees as representatives of the environmental condition and as elements vital for human survival include several startling works.
For example, Daniel Fischer’s photograph of his 1995 large-format heart painting within an actual forest creates a memorable impression: the heart of the forest made real in a combination of the realistic and mystical. Remarkable.
The paintings and other works so featured come from Belvedere’s own extensive collection, but also from international sources.
Tickets, dates & tips
Enjoy some arboreal splendour from September 23rd, 2022 to January 8th, 2023. A ticket for Lower Belvedere includes the exhibitions within.
If at Lower Belvedere for the early part of the Grow exhibition, nip along to the orangery for some gorgeous landscapes by the 19th-century painter, Joseph Rebell.
Belvedere itself has some wooded neighbours, should you feel inspired to see art turned into reality:
- The Alpine Gardens has a lovely little bonsai collection (only open in warmer seasons, sadly)
- The adjoining (and free) University Botanical Garden includes, for example, a couple of giant sequoias
How to get there
Check the Belvedere directions article for travel tips. Lower Belvedere lies close to the centre, within walking distance of the south side of Vienna’s old town.
Address: Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna