T00288 THE TREE OF LIFE 1958–9
Inscr. ‘Scottie’ b.r.
Ink and coloured crayons on black card, 20 1/2×25 1/4 (52×64·5).
Presented by Charles Aukin 1959.
Coll: Purchased by Charles Aukin from the artist.
This and ‘The Bowl of Life’ are two of a series of some dozen designs on the same theme. ‘The Tree of Life’ was completed first and both date from between December 1958 and January 1959. Discussing his work, the artist told the compiler (6 July 1959) that it was his practice to begin several paintings in rapid succession under the stimulus or ‘strain’ of a new set of images, working out his ideas and returning last of all to complete the very first of any series. This would then embody most fully his original idea, and would always be the hardest to finish.
Various motifs such as the swan, fish, houses and flowers which appear in the margin of T00288 are developed in T00289; the bowl of fish becomes the main theme and the birds in the tree are subordinated to the top left margin. The artist also spoke of ‘faces’ appearing quite accidentally in some of the formal motifs such as the pedestal of the bowl in T00289, and at the base and top of the tree in T00288. The ‘Tree’ in fact is rather similar to a stage setting, with wings and proscenium arch opening on to an exotic bird-infested blossoming tree.
Another composition, ‘The Singing Birds in Springtime’ (25 1/4×20 in.), shows the same tree and bird motif, without the framework of supporting devices, and belongs to the artist.
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II