Charter Oak, CN
In an e-mail of June 10th, you mentioned the Connecticut state quarter,
with the Charter Oak on the reverse. At first, I thought the Conn artist
who drew the design used a crabapple or a white mulberry for a model
since it doesn't look anything like an oak, much less the Charter Oak.
However, that wouldn't be fair to Malus or Morus, so I upended the coin,
and concluded that the subject was simply the root system of some
invasive plant species, which isn't fair to Therestofus.
The famous painting of the Charter oak was done by Charles Dewolf
Brownell shortly before it was blown down in August 1856. The treatment
of limbs and trunk appears to have been a true rendering, showing an
ancient tree with a massive trunk, and a sweep of great angular limbs.
The foliage seems a bit too soft, and detracts from the otherwise strong
character of the tree.
The 1935 postage stamp commemorating the Connecticut Tercentenary was
quite faithfully taken from Brownell's painting, but without the clutter
of a few inconsequential small trees. The treatment of twigs was much
improved, resulting in a structure which is true to ancient white oaks.
Unlike the two-bit coin, there is no pretense of symmetry; the tree has
a dramatic sweep of old limbs to the right, somewhat reminiscent of
Maryland's Richards Oak, but even more identifiable as an individual
The commemorative half dollar of 1935 has an image of the Charter Oak
which is identifiable, although more a swollen caricature than an actual
depiction. Actually, considering the stylicized eagle on the obverse, it
appears that the whole was influenced by art deco design, and the
futuristic ideas leading up to the the World's Fair of 1939.
At least both 1935 images are identifiable as the Charter Oak, without
the drift to forced anonymity afflicting the present. The
"tree" on the 1999 quarter is a bit reminiscent of the air
mail stamps of 1941-1944, which showed a transport plane which is said
to have been drawn from a variety of actual planes so as to avoid
endorsing any of them. Engineers claimed the thing wouldn't have been
capable of flight.
So, the 1999 tree may have been influenced by some board of artistic
censorship that didn't want to endorse any particular species of tree,
lest the nurserymen hawking Bradford pears and other arboreal
mediocrities claim their patented selections were being upstaged. The
result is arboreal pap, and like the plane, just doesn't fly.