24 May 2020

Virtual exhibition: A Legacy of Ancient Oaks

Take a virtual gallery tour and admire artist Mark Frith’s stunningly detailed oak drawings.

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Drawing of Queen Elizabeth Oak in Sussex by artist Mark Frith

We’re bringing our incredible Mark Frith: A Legacy of Ancient Oaks exhibition to you, to enjoy from home.

Take a virtual tour of 10 of the breath-taking, large-scale graphite drawings that were on display.

Here's your chance to view the artworks if you missed the exhibition first time round, when it was on display in our Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art from October 2018 to March 2019.

The drawings convey the stark architectural beauty of Britain’s most iconic ancient oaks, many of which are more than 1,000 years old.

The artist, Mark Frith, captures the individual character and majesty of each tree in winter, with the tree trunks, bark and branches shown in all their intricacy.

Not only beautiful, these botanical drawings also help document the nature of these long-lived oaks.

The series took the artist three and a half years to complete, with each drawing measuring a huge 1.7 metres wide.

Start your tour...

The Great Oak

Nibley Green

This huge sessile oak (Quercus petraea), a species native to Britain, is found in Nibley Green in Gloucestershire. The ancient tree was the artist's initial inspiration for the project.

Drawing of The Great Oak in Nibley Green by artist Mark Frith
The Great Oak in Nibley Green, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Bowthorpe Oak

Lincolnshire

One of England's oldest oak trees, the Bowthorpe Oak has a giant 12-metre girth. Sitting in a field in Manthorpe, it's believed dinner parties were once held within its cavernous hollowed trunk.

Drawing of Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire by artist Mark Frith
Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Pontfadog Oak

Powys

The Pontfadog Oak was the oldest tree in Wales, thought to exceed 1,200 years in age. Sadly, in 2013, the iconic tree was toppled by a storm. 

Drawing of Pontfadog Oak in Powys by artist Mark Frith
Pontfadog Oak in Powys, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Marton Oak

Cheshire

Perhaps the largest oak in Britain, measuring over 14 metres in girth, the Marton Oak has a unique hollow trunk that was once used as a farm animal enclosure.

Drawing of Marton Oak in Cheshire by artist Mark Frith
Marton Oak in Cheshire, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

The Old Man of Calke

Derbyshire

Situated in Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, this old beauty is still producing acorns. It's thought to date back to when the first Vikings came to Britain.

Drawing of The Old Man of Calke in Derbyshire by artist Mark Frith
The Old Man of Calke in Derbyshire, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Darley Oak

Cornwall

The 1,000-year-old Darley Oak, located on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, is steeped in local legends and tales of superstition. 

Drawing of Darley Oak in Cornwall by artist Mark Frith
Darley Oak in Cornwall, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Majesty Oak (Fredville Oak)

Kent

The Majesty Oak, also known as the Fredville Oak thanks to its location in Fredville Park, Nonington, is a grand and imposing English oak (Quercus robur). 

Drawing of Fredville Oak (Majesty Oak) in Kent by artist Mark Frith
Fredville Oak (Majesty Oak) in Kent, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Offa’s Oak

Windsor Great Park

Named after King Offa, this 1,300-year-old English oak is thought to have been alive in the time of the Anglo-Saxon ruler. 

Drawing of Offa’s Oak in Windsor Great Park by artist Mark Frith
Offa’s Oak in Windsor Great Park, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Queen Elizabeth Oak

Sussex

This large sessile oak has a very distinct appearance with its hollow trunk and low crown. It is said Elizabeth I once hunted stag positioned beneath the great tree. 

Drawing of Queen Elizabeth Oak in Sussex by artist Mark Frith
Queen Elizabeth Oak in Sussex, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Capon Oak

Borders

This old survivor, located in the Scottish Borders, is held together by support beams. The helping hand is needed due to a huge split through the middle of its trunk. 

Drawing of Capon Oak in the Borders by artist Mark Frith
Capon Oak in the Borders, Mark Frith © RBG Kew, bequeathed by the Estate of Felix Dennis

Publisher, poet, and philanthropist, Felix Dennis, originally commissioned the exhibition’s 20-drawing series by Mark Frith.

The 10 drawings shown here were gifted to Kew and are now part of our Illustrations Collection within our Library, Art and Archives.

Kew's mighty oaks

Within our Arboretum's collection of 14,000 trees, we have over 2,700 specimens of 112 species of oaks.

Many are ancient and extraordinary.

Dating back to the 18th century, our Lucombe oak (Quercus x hispanica 'Lucombeana') is one of the oldest trees in the Gardens.

While our magnificent chestnut-leaved oak (Quercus castaneifolia) is our biggest and fastest-growing tree.

From our 300-year-old giant English oak (Quercus robur) to the tough cork oak (Quercus suber), every tree is a source of knowledge and vital to our botanical and conservation research.

Drawing of Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire by artist Mark Frith

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Browse our collection of stunning extra large prints featuring Mark Frith's intricate graphite oak drawings.

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