An eighteen-month digital exploration of the global story of the apple, drawing on expertise and art collections from around the world. A response to a global pandemic.

Live from 19 January 2021 – the apples and people website

‘It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man’
Henry David Thoreau ‘Wild Apples’ 1862

Apples & People is a digital response in a time of great uncertainty, bringing the astonishing and international story of the humble apple to all. Symbolising global connectedness, individual achievement, happenchance, and people and nature working closely together, the apple eaten today offers hope as well as nourishment.
Over the next eighteen months, this online exhibition programme will release over forty short stories illustrated with art works from internationally significant collections. Each story explores different aspects of humanity’s relationship with the apple through history, science, and culture.
Apples & People reveals just how significant and iconic this humble fruit found in everyone’s fruit bowl has become. From the garden of Eden to the Isle of Avalon, the fruit forests of Kazakhstan to the walled gardens of Ancient Greece, the apple tree rooted itself around the globe and the apple has become the symbolic fruit, embedding itself across cultures within folklore, art, and literature.
David Marshall, Associate of the Brightspace Foundation said: “Ignited by research published on the genetic geography of the apple, the idea for an art-based exhibition to explore the apple world, and provide context for England’s orchards, transformed in response to the pandemic. The digital approach of Apples & People has enabled distance relationships with apple experts and access to fascinating cultural collections around the world.”
The exhibition programme is the result of a partnership between the Brightspace Foundation, Hereford Cider Museum, and the National Trust in Herefordshire, where more apples grow than anywhere else in the UK. David Bailey, General Manager for National Trust Herefordshire said: “The apple is so important to our work on the National Trust properties in Herefordshire, so much so we are restoring traditional orchards at many of our places to allow enjoyment and relaxation amongst beautiful blossom and bountiful harvest. This partnership exhibition puts the apple at the centre of our world as we realise the global connections of this remarkable fruit and its shared relationship with humanity.”

The UK is part of the global story of the apple. This online exhibition programme has been able to draw upon many art collections and the expertise of friends of apples all around the world. It has been supported by an international advisory panel of leading apple scientists and historians, from USA, China, New Zealand, Italy and across the UK.

James Bissett, a Trustee of the Cider Museum said: “Everyone’s life has been touched by an apple at some time – but where did that apple come from? what is its history? how was it grown? Apples & People will help you answer these questions and discover how this seemingly humble fruit has shaped the world we live in today and will continue to do so into the future.”
Originally conceived as a programme of exhibitions at four sites in Herefordshire, UK, to bring together visual art & culture, sound, community engagement, science, and the natural environment to explore the fascinating history of this symbolic fruit, this online digital engagement has been launched in response to the global pandemic. It acts as a prelude and teaser to the physical exhibitions, partly funded by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, that will take place as soon as circumstances allow. The new website will allow users to explore many different aspects of the apple’s journey through time and cultures. Based upon the first ever commissioned map of The Apple World by illustrator Helen Cann, the website will reveal a network of stories about the apple from the ancient world to the present day. (detail shown below) Stories such as Johnny Appleseed planting seedlings across America, the poisoned apple in the Snow White folk tale, and Isaac Newton discovering gravity will highlight just how significant this fruit is to people, and how vital people have been in creating and selecting the rich variety of apples that are enjoyed around the world today.

Detail from Apple World map by Helen Cann

Apples & People includes a varied collection of art images from collections around the world and will also feature new commissions across all art forms. It launches on the anniversary of the birth of the French post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne who famously declared ‘with an apple I will astonish Paris’, challenging himself and the art world to re-think the painting rule book as he captured the humble fruit. Cézanne’s apples are the subject of the first short story and will be accompanied by his exquisite ‘Still Life with Apples’ shown with permission from Kings College, Cambridge.
Antonia Harrison, programme curator, said: “The apple is culturally laden with meaning and symbolism. The fruit has inspired such a fascinating cross section of art and culture including sculpture, poetry, painting, film, and photography as well as cultural events and customs. The totemic fruit has been handed down throughout the history of art and continues to inspire artists today. It truly is a global, cultural phenomena”.