Graham Sutherland (1903-1980), Orchard at Trottiscliffe (1943)

“These were the woods the river and the sea

Where a boy

In the listening

Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy

To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.

And the mystery

Sang alive

       Still in the water and singing birds.” – Poem in October, Dylan Thomas

Graham Sutherland, most known for his imaginative landscapes and portraits, was one of the leading British modern artists of his time. While working as an official war artist during the Second World War, Sutherland also found time to create more personal pieces. His unnerving and gnarled depiction of an orchard in Trottiscliffe is a perfect example of his surrealistic style. Trees generally tend to be symbols of union and liberation, but Sutherland’s bleak and twisted depiction of one leaves little room for either. In contrast, the vibrant green background is symbolic of harmony and safety, which were both foreseeable to the Allies at the time this work was created.