Just in!
Matilda Webb recently sent us this email. Do you have any unusual Green Men in Oxfordshire settings?

'Hello I've been enjoying looking for the places with a Green Man that are shown in your website. Recently my friend Guy Viney came to visit me in Oxford and I photographed his incredible Green Man tattoo... I know it's not quite what you're after but it is a Green Man and I did photograph him in Oxfordshire (in Great Coxwell Tithe Barn).'

Nicholas Mynheer
In the 21st century, artists are finding inspiration in the Green Man as perhaps never before. Painter and sculptor Nicholas Mynheer, based at Horton-cum-Studley, is among them.

Nicholas is a practising Christian, who for 20 years has been painting and sculpting, chiefly around Biblical themes, for churches and religious institutions all round the world, and for every denomination. He is the subject of an extended interview with Tim Healey in the February 2007 issue of The Oxford Times Limited Edition, from which the extracts below are taken. Nick was recently commissioned to carve a Green Man for the Hillier Arboretum in Hampshire. He has been deeply inspired by the Green Man and has no problem with the supposed pagan origins of the image.

'I love that idea that we're not separate from the world; we're part of it - we're made of the same stuff. The Green Man for me is God in Nature, and the personification of the change in the seasons. It's about man's relationship with the world and Nature.'

An exterior corner of Nicholas's own studio boasts a superb Green Man carved by his own hand. Local residents have clearly been impressed. Another resident of Horton-cum-Studley now has an exterior Green Man carved by Nicholas Mynheer, and two more foliate figures have been commissioned for interiors of homes in the village - one in stone and one in glass.

I asked Nicholas Mynheer whether he consciously decided what sort of foliage should feature in his own Green Man carvings. 'Not really; I do associate the Green Man with the old deciduous oak forests. But I let the chisel decide…'

Visit Nicholas’s site at www.mynheer-art.co.uk

Caroline Ritson, an Abingdon-based artist, has created this striking image of a Green Man emerging from the woods. He clutches a branch of greenery and on his hand perches a wren, the ‘King of the Birds’ in a St Stephen’s Day folk tradition. Caroline reports that she was drawn to the Green Man because, ‘I love the joining-up of nature and man.’ A folk singer and musician she says that the Green Man makes her think of Tam Lin, magical hero of Scottish Border ballads. Tam is a mortal man who is captured by the Queen of the Fairies and under her spell shape-changes into all manner of different creatures. He is custodian of the wild wood and accosts Lady Margaret when she trespasses on his domain:

How dare you pull my flower?
How dare you break my tree?
How dare you run in the merry green wood
Without the leave of me?

Visit Caroline’s site at www.carolineritson.co.uk

Jane Tomlinson
Eynsham-based artist Jane Tomlinson writes:'I try to make lively, colourful images to excite the eye and feed the soul.' She explores the natural world and investigates the ways in which people seek to understand natural phenomenon through mythology, religion and science. 'I'm fascinated by the Green Man! He seems to be a figure of folklore who goes way back to prehistoric times. I am particularly curious about the way he appears on churches so much, despite the fact he is pagan and nothing to do with christianity...'

Visit Jane Tomlinson's site here

Brien O’Rourke, working in Faringdon, has also been inspired by themes of death and rebirth in nature. Brien has recently produced a whole family of paintings where leaves and swelling fruits merge with emblems of human sexuality – phallus, womb and pudenda – to create scenes of mixed darkness and fecundity. His Spring Dance is a green riot with watching eyes in the veined wood - the eyes of the Green Man. Brien has been much inspired by the image; it was he who directed our attention to the Green Man in Woolstone’s extraordinarily atmospheric church.
In the museums
We are only just beginning to survey the Green Man effigies on view in Oxfordshire’s museums and galleries, but a quick trip to the Ashmolean in Oxford immediately yielded results. They included this extraordinary neoclassical Green Horse, disgorging foliage, which is sculpted in marble; as well as this tiny head seen on a French glazed earthenware vase of about 1600. No Green Man has been sited at the Ashmolean in oil painting as yet – but if he may be absent from canvasses he is plentiful in the decorative frames…

Can you tell us of more? Email info@greenmantrail.co.uk