John Hafen (1856 – 1910), The Sycamore Tree (1908), 105.4 x 90.5 cm (41 1/2 x 35 5/8″), Oil on canvas, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Gift of J. William Knight.
In honor of Arbor Day Swiss born, Mormon Pioneer, John Hafen, was one of the Art Missionaries who trained at the Academie Julien in Paris in order to execute murals in the nearly completed Salt Lake Temple. While in France, Hafen was impressed by Claude Monet and other Impressionists who achieved optical lighting effects in landscape paintings with distinctively loose brushstrokes. Hafen’s French immersion can be seen in his Sycamore Tree. The massive trunk diagonally bisects the picture, embodying imperiled grandeur. It implies that someday soon, the arboreal monarch which stood for generations will lie in decay. But that is not today. Indeed, while John Hafen has gone on to his reward one hundred and eleven years ago, his Sycamore Tree is bowed, but still celebrated, primarily for its enduring resistance to the forces that would overcome it. Happy Arbor Day, tree-hugging patrons of the arts.