This Tree of Life comes from a series of some dozen designs on the same theme.

It was the artist practice to begin several paintings in rapid succession under the stimulus or ‘strain’ of a new set of images, working out his ideas and returning last of all to complete the very first of any series. Fish, birds and trees are common motifs in his work.

Scottie Wilson (1889-1972) was a self-taught Scottish-Jewish artist from Glasgow. According to Rabbanic Judaism, there exists a ‘tree of souls’ that produces new souls, which fall into the Guf (the Treasury of Souls). An embryo is born when the Angel Gabriel plucks a soul from the treasury. The fish that appear to be falling from the tree in this painting, could be interpreted as a visual depiction of this blossoming and ripening of new souls.

The Tree of Life with Fish
Scottie Wilson
Collection, Leeds Museum & Galleries