Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Fine Art Tuesday


May Theilgaard Watts born 1893 in Illinois, died 1975.

Mrs Watts was notable for being a naturalist at Morton Arboretum in Illinois and for writing a series of books including "Reading the Landscape of America" and "Reading the Landscape of Europe"

She illustrated her own books. Her spare, ink drawings removed all extraneous, distracting detail and subtly exaggerated the features she wanted the reader to attend to. In many ways, her drawings were far superior to photos for her purpose.

Mrs Watts was a master of time progression. Her compositions created indelible memories that were easily recalled.

Hedges are a good metaphor for "Remnants".

Hedges are begrudgingly laid around the edges of fields or verges of roads. It is a small percentage of the area dedicated to the main business of growing a crop.

Hedges are where most of the diversity exists. There is even a movement in Europe to register "Ancient Hedges". Ancient hedges are identified by the number of species per given length of segment. (quick read on Ancient Hedges)

During WWII, the Allies fought field-by-field, hedge-by-hedge through Western France.

During WWII, much of Europe collected berries, rose-hips and "fluff" from hedges. The berries and rose-hips provided much needed Vitamin C (in short supply due to submarine warfare shutting off the supply of citrus) while the fluff was used for bandages. Mischievous boys discovered that the seedy, insides of rose hips (R. canina) made an excellent itching powder.

During Holodomor (the 1933 Ukrainian famine), families gleaned foods from hedges to survive after the Soviets raked every grain, potato and turnip from the kulaks' homes. Filberts, dandelions, nettles, rose hips, haws, sloe, plums, quince, Cornus mas, rabbits to snare, nests to look for eggs.....  

Many older pear and apple cultivars were found growing in hedge-rows and were propagated.

Construction of a traditional, European hedge. This is a hedge that has just received its 20 year maintenance. Big wood is hinge-cut, tipped and woven between hurdles to compress it and make it impenetrable. "Horse-high, bull-strong and pig-tight"

Another view. How would you like to fight a war with defenders on the other side of this, peering through tunnels they cut through the hedge. Not much opportunity for flanking.

Sometimes hedges got away from the farmers. War, legal entanglements, laws, land being sequestered by the government were all reasons why a hedge drop out of the twenty-year maintenance cycle. These are beech trees that over-topped the hedge and took on a life of their own.


  1. I really enjoy your posts. The one nit I have is with your apparent belief that citrus is a primary source of vitamin C. That is a myth perpetuated by the citrus industry as an advertising gimmick. A cup of broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange. How many of your ancestors came from areas where citrus fruit was plentiful? A: None.

    1. I have no arguments with anything you wrote.

      One of the stars of the Victory Gardens in the U.K. were Brussel Sprouts. One of the huge draws was that the monkey-skulls would keep on the stems until they were needed. The climate in most of Britain contributed to that. If it is green, it has vitamin C.

      It makes me wonder if the rose hips were for people involved in activities where the bulk of regular food would be inconvenient. Perhaps people on ships or deployed in combat.

    2. As far as I understand, the big problems of scurvy happen when there are no options with vitamin C around. For example, on ships the diet used to be almost exclusively hardtack and salt pork for ordinary sailors, rather unbalanced to modern eyes and lacking many micronutrients beyond just vitamin C.

  2. https://www.thewhig.com/news/local-news/new-forest-to-grow-as-part-of-amherst-island-rewilding-project

  3. Hedges could be impenetrable, to put it mildly. Some were even hardy enough to stop the early tanks!

    1. Search for the rhino tanks of Normandy WW2.
      A nice bit of quick thinking.

  4. https://phys.org/news/2021-05-road-verges-opportunity-wildflowers-bees.html

    I never even heard of verges now it shows up twice in a dgay.

  5. It is easy to see why wire replaced hedges.

  6. I get the utilitarian aspect of the sketches - good stuff for what it is. But it’s far from “fine art” as I understand the term. Is it finer than most of what passes as art today? Sure. But are these functional drawings fine art like the Dutch masters or even the Hudson River School? Clearly not. Only if you buy the “art is in the eye of the beholder” nonsense, but that brings us to abominations like “Piss Chr!st.” But the blog is great and I love the info and entertainment, so I will continue to look forward to the odd ERJ “art” selections each week...

    1. Fair enough.

      I have two feelers out to contemporary artists asking to display their works. They returned my emails and they sounded excited.

      I asked them to nominate images that they want to have greater exposure. I asked them to nominate images that spanned their portfolio and give viewers the maximum chance to see something they liked.

      I got stiffed.

      I don't know if the political tone of my blog turned them off. I don't know if "life" happened and they got busy.

      So, you got an illustrator; a teller-of-stories with a few, sparse lines of ink.

      Like Haiku poetry, sometimes less-is-more.

      From the perspective of today when any knob with $500 can buy a smartphone with a 12 megapixel camera, who is the better artist: The knob who will capture every hair on the dog or the sketcher who will capture the unique, voluptuous swell of Silphium perfoliatum's leaves or the jointed legs of a blister beetle or the look of a grateful dog drinking from a water dish?


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