Ever wonder what the world would look like without trees? Taking a good, long look at pictures of rainforest deforestation is a good way to see it on a large scale. But while that’s a picture that won’t be pretty for anyone to see, it’s not quite the same as seeing a familiar place suddenly devoid of trees’ lush greenness.
One Edinburgh scientist wanted to draw people’s eyes to the importance and presence of trees in our lives. To do so, he used the power of absence to make a statement. Dr. Iain Woodhouse used photo-editing software to remove trees from three famous paintings: Constable’s The Haywain, Seurat’s Sunday afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte, and Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun.
But Woodhouse didn’t just erase the trees—no, he made the altered paintings represent something much closer to reality by leaving the chopped stumps of trees in place. In doing so, he is blatantly highlighting the global deforestation threat.
“It is crucial that trees do not disappear from our landscapes,” he said. “Trees are a vital global resource, providing fuel, shelter, clean water and food for many species including people, and helping to maintain a healthy atmosphere by harvesting carbon dioxide.”
The painting by Van Gogh is perhaps the most eerie of the three. What was once a picture of lush olive trees covering a rocky landscape was transformed into a desert devoid of any life-signs. Tree stumps remained as reminders of what was once there, the hot sun beating down relentlessly on the dry and cracked ground.