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Drawing - The Story Of  A Tree
  • The Story Of A Tree
    Brandt, Rolf, born 1906 - died 1986
  • Enlarge image

The Story Of A Tree

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1945 (made)
    1945 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Brandt, Rolf, born 1906 - died 1986 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache on paper, on card support

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the artist's children

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case WD, shelf 215, box C

Although he trained as an actor, Rolf Brandt enjoyed drawing and making collages. In his native Germany he developed an interest in Dada and Surrealism and in Bauhaus artists such as Paul Klee. He moved to London from Hamburg in the early 1930s with his brother Bill (1904–83), who became famous as a photographer.

This is one of nine illustrations that Brandt made for the children’s book The Story of a Tree by Stephen McFarlane. Charting the passage of a tree from forest to sawmill to carpenter’s workshop to toyshop, the images are a charming example of illustration for children at the end of the Second World War. Brandt’s interest in Surrealism is evident in some of the illustrations, especially this cover page, where the trees take on the forms of furniture and toys.

Physical description

Gouache painting on thick paper pasted to brown cardboard support which has residual glue marks etc on back. Image is a row of five virtually leafless trees each with a wooden object/s, stool, chair, ladder, toy train engine and domestic utensils, drawn into the outline of each, as if part of the natural growth. Birds squirrels, a mouse and a snake perch on or fly around them. In the foreground a lizard and rabbit. The sky is yellow with clouds, the earth white, shading through to dark grey/black where it meets the sky. Centred toward top of image in caps the legend: The Story Of A Tree. Tissue cover-sheet attached by sellotape to back along top margin.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1945 (made)
1945 (published)


Brandt, Rolf, born 1906 - died 1986 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Gouache on paper, on card support

Marks and inscriptions

'The Story Of A Tree / No 1 (Cover) / R.A.Brandt.'
In purple crayon below this the address: 39 Belsize Pk Gdns NW3
On the back inscribed in black ink


Height: 36.7 cm, Width: 43.2 cm

Descriptive line

Gouache drawing: illustration no 1 (cover) from a set of 9 for 'The Story Of A Tree' by Stephen McFarlane

Labels and date

Rolf A. Brandt (1906-86)

Display 'Into the Woods: Trees in Illustration'; Gallery 102; June 2017 to the end of January 2018

Illustration for the cover to 'The Story of a Tree' by Stephen McFarlane, published by Peter Lunn, 1946

About 1945

Rolf Brandt illustrated a number of children's books in the 1930s and 1940s. In this story we see a tree chopped down, and we are then shown how the wood is used to make all kinds of wooden toys and furniture for children. The image on the cover, with trees growing into the shapes of these things, shows how Surrealism had influenced Brandt's style and his imagination.

Gouache on paper, on card support

Given by the artist's children

Museum no. E.546:1-2005 [2016]

Production Note

This is the design for the cover illustration for the book by Stephen McFarlane. The eight other designs for illustrations are also in the collection. At the time of acquisition the designs were in a paper wrapper labelled with the titles of the nine drawings. It was not clear if these had been assigned by the artist, the publisher or the artist's family


Paper; Card; Gouache



Subjects depicted

Animals; Trees


Children & Childhood; Dolls & Toys; Drawings; Illustration; Paintings; Woodwork

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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