Branching Out: Botany and the Sculptural Object

Institute Conference
27th October 2012
Henry Moore Institute seminar room, 11.30am

Laurence Josephs
'Sculptor's Tree'

Courtesy of Leeds Museums and Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive 2000.42)

Branching Out: Botany and the Sculptural Object explores the ways in which botany, vegetable matter and plants have been used by artists, collectors and theorists as material, metaphor and symbol.

Botanical imagery, be it fantastical and decorative or realistic and pedagogic, has formed a powerful undercurrent in European sculpture and engagement with the object since the seventeenth century, inspiring artworks ranging from Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 'Apollo and Daphne' (1622-5) to the relief sculpture of Gilbert Bayes, 'The Lure of the Pan Pipes' (1932-3).  Expressing a multiplicity of ideas about nature, the perennial appeal of botanical symbolism to sculptors has resided in its ability to negotiate a complex network of meanings, standing at the interstice between the sacred and profane; mysticism and science; conservation and consumption; colonisation and transplantation; growth and decay. Sculpture in the early twentieth century drew on botany as an exhilarating symbol of hybridism and metamorphosis.  Post-war artists from Joseph Beuys to Yves Klein have also incorporated readymade objects with vegetative connotations, such as tree trunks, sponges and fresh vegetables into their oeuvre.

This conference examines the ways in which botany has acted as a continuing source of inspiration in sculpture, with the discussion situating twentieth century sculpture and the botanical imagination within a broader historical context.


Confirmed Speakers:

Dr Sharon Hecker (IES Abroad Milan)

'E coronarmi allor di quelle foglie': Luciano Fabro's Botanical Art


Dr Donna Roberts (Independent)

Botanical sculpture, psychasthenic space, and the dismantling of surrealist delirium


Professor David Lomas (University of Manchester)

Perverse Implantations: Helen Chadwick's 'Piss Flowers' (1992) and the Botanical Imaginary


The conference convenors, Dr Edward Juler (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Marion Endt-Jones (University of Manchester) give an art historical introduction to the conference.  Both have been Henry Moore Foundation Post-doctoral Fellows, 2009-11 and 2008-9 respectively.

Dr Christian Weikop (University of Edinburgh) acts as a respondent. 

Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (King's College, London) chairs the discussion.