Galleries - December 2015

impalpably graceful watercolour of trees (1926). Sutherland’s magisterially ominous ‘Thorn Trees’ (1945) makes a curious near-contemporaneous companion to Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Palmeraie aux Trois Oiseaux’ (1949), in which palm trees are delicately abstracted into cup-like forms. Ben Nicholson’s pencil and ochre wash ‘Trees, Tuscany’ (1955) singles out a few bare trees with brooding acuity. Chopped blanched tree forms in Keith Vaughan’s c.1958 ‘Winter Landscape’ are like lopped human limbs. Golden leaves in Winifred Nicholson’s ‘Autumn Windows’ (1970s) scintillate like priceless coins. Alexander Calder’s ‘Abstract Colour Trees’ (1970) depict them as ingeniously riotous musical patternings. ‘Sil- ver Birch in front of the Chapel’ (1980) by Mary Newcomb couldn’t be more different than the Corot painting here of silver birches (c.1860); hers is edgy; his sinuous; yet both are living struc- tures of light. Zhu Jianzhong’s ‘Pine Tree’ (2014; ink and water on paper) is a study of miraculous subtleties of dark and light. Philip Vann Star public loan to the latest exhibition at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, ‘The Creative Genius of Stanley Spencer’, is the superb ‘Hilda, Unity and Dolls’ from Leeds Art Gallery. Rarely seen in the south of England, it recently formed the focal point for a wonderful Daniel Katz’s current exhibition on art collecting comes at a time of growing fascination with the lives and practices of collectors. ‘30 Years: An Obsession’ exhibits the works amassed by a single collector, spanning countries and centuries, including works from Lucas Cranach the Elder, from the 16th century Weimar, to Paul Cézanne’s paintings from 19th century France. Collectors, such as the one featured in ‘30 Years’, are rightly recognised as some of art’s most powerful influencers. The efforts of individuals such as Sir John Soane, Peggy Guggenheim and Charles Saatchi set the groundwork for institutions that stand as some of the world’s most important, accessible collections. And stories of their wealth, exploits and pursuit of objects continue to fascinate. The opening of Soane’s private quarters in May revealed a space overrun with architectural objects as well as a sealed bathtub filled with his personal documents, false teeth and spectacles. This year’s documentary ‘Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict’ attempts to untangle stories of her sexual exploits from her personal taste in art; and Saatchi, for all his expressions of shyness at gallery openings, continues to appear with regularity in tabloids and gossip columns. Often, however, collectors’ passions are put into dispassionate contexts. Psychologists trace the need to 52 GALLERIES DECEMBER 2015 collect back to the practices of prehistoric hunter-gatherers, or interpret collecting as a response to existential anxieties. Historians pass on the stories with more discipline than they were created: ‘this course divides neatly into two halves’ promises the online course description for The History of Collecting at Cambridge, referring to the study of the topic through text and image and then through examination of physical collections. Elsewhere, students may go on to a postgraduate degree, such as an MLitt in the subject at the University of Glasgow or an MA at the National Gallery in London. Whether viewers choose to understand collectors with undisciplined awe or a tidy grasp of their minds and history, the results of their efforts can be stunning. Daniel Katz offers a taste of what the obsession of one collector can create. Frances Allitt A riveting exhibition – ‘Arboretum – Journey through Trees’ explores the incredibly diverse approaches of artists to this archetypal subject ( Crane Kalman Gallery , to 16 January). The catalogue opens with a Blake quote: ‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way . . . to the eyes of the man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.’ An early Dufy of vibrant green fir trees against an inky sky (1902) stands robustly near Paul Nash’s Arboretum Stanley Spencer CODA 30 Years