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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Scientist Chops Trees From Constable, Seurat, and Van Gogh Paintings to Fight Deforestation

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Dr. Ian Woodhouse, a scientist at Edinburgh University who is an outspoken critic of deforestation, recently posted a series of art historical remixes to his blog Forest Planet featuring works by Vincent van Gogh, John Constable, and George Seurat with all the trees missing. The conspicuously empty-looking artworks are intended to make clear that “it is crucial that trees do not disappear from our landscapes,” Woodhouse told BBC News.

“I love forests,” the aptly named Woodhouse writes on his Edinburgh University page. “I love them because they are aesthetically beautiful (to look at and to be in).” The treeless remixes of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte” (1884-86, above), van Gogh’s “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun” (1889, below), and Constable’s “The Hay Wain” (1821, at bottom) makes his point about trees’ aesthetic properties self-evident.

To the artistic argument for trees Woodhouse adds his environmental perspective. “But I also love them for their regulating role on the world’s climate (they take CO2 out of the atmosphere) and their role in supporting people’s livelihoods (about 1.4 billion people, almost one quarter of the world’s population, rely on forests for a major part of their livelihood),” he writes.

“It is relatively easy to represent the importance of something that is present,” Woodhouse says of the photoshopped artworks, “but how do you capture or express the importance of something like deforestation that is all about the absence of something?”

Clear-cut van Gogh:

Original van Gogh:

Clear-cut Constable:

Original Constable:

— Benjamin Sutton

(Images via Forest Planet.)

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