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The Tree of Modern Art Planted 60 Years Ago, 1933

José Miguel Covarrubias (1904 - 1957)

74.5 x 55 cm
Biblioteca. Fundación Juan March, Madrid
© Photo: Fernando Ramajo

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Artists from the French tradition have their roots in the earth and nourish the great trunk of Impressionist painting. From this trunk, a number of branches emerge, which grow in different directions, interweaving and separating, and thus give life to new leaves: the new artists. This is how Miguel Covarrubias represented the evolution of painting in 1933. But why did he choose the image of a tree?


Throughout history, trees have played such a prominent role in the lives of human beings that countless cultures have venerated them. They have been a symbol and image of power, the axis of the world, or the tree of life. The depth of their roots, the strength of their trunk, the growth of their branches, their capacity to bear fruit or to be reborn after the winter evoke concepts such as fertility, growth and resurrection.


As a result, their image, which is easy to draw, has served to express the development of many familial, political or cultural histories: from the seed that is nurtured in the soil and engenders the stalk, to the young plant that grows energetically. The ascendant form of the tree trunk has made it possible to classify knowledge in a hierarchical or chronological manner. The root is associated with the principal source of knowledge, while the trunk is linked to the common subject that unites the knowledge areas. And from there, the different branches, depending on how they are drawn, allude to the development and multiplicity of themes, the relationship between different information areas, and the process of succession and generation that takes place between them.


It is for this reason that plant-based images were used from the Middle Ages onwards to study and organize knowledge. The most modern trees have become rhizomes and acquired increasingly more complex topographies of images, replacing their constituent parts with lines and geometric figures. Many of those that we see here have managed to synthesize a variety of concepts in order to narrate the vicissitudes of the histories of painting.


Over the course of this exhibition you will discover multiple forms of representing the history of art in a visual manner.