Tom Leworthy

The Tree of Knowledge

'Hitler at Nanternis' painting by Tom Leworthy

  " The Tree of Knowledge "
  Acrylic on canvas 22" x 20"
  Tom Leworthy 1992

This is a portrait of Adolf Hitler at Nanternis in 1929. He stands surrounded by the plant kingdom in our back garden, and poses with red and black in a world of green.

The canvas is divided exactly in half along the vertical edge of the banner behind him. On the right is an aspect of Human intervention and involvement, and on the left the physical world of Nature. There is a battle between two elemental forces symbolised by the opposite colours of red and green. Industry, ambition, and contolling social forces, stand opposite the benign forces of Nature. This has been aptly captured by Andrew Marvel in 1652, in his poem "Thoughts in a Garden" :

" How vainly men themselves amaze

  To win the palm, the oak, or bays,
  And their incessant labours see
  Crown'd from some single herb or tree,
  Whose short and narrow-verged shade
  Does prudently their toils upbraid . .

  . . . No white nor red was ever seen
  So amorous as this lovely green . . . "

The painting has four quadrants, each with a symbolic meaning. In the top right quadrant is the human personality of Hitler, accentuated by the uniform and flag, displaying his historical and social imperatives. Within the bottom right quadrant there is the embodiment of the force of evil. The Devil stares out onto the material world from the shadows cast by the upper right arm.

A similar visual device was used in the painting "Salem" by S. C. Vosper in 1908, where the Devil can be seen on the fold and edge of the shawl over the left arm of the lady as she enters a Welsh chapel.

In the bottom left quadrant there is the physical world, of grass, ferns, and the fallen apples of knowledge. In the top left quadrant is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil ~ the title of the work. This apple tree does in fact provide an abundance of fruit each year but ironically, if it be a tree of concepts, these are all 'cookers'.

    "Annihilating all that's made
  To a green thought in a green shade."