I wasn’t entirely sure how best to begin this exercise. So I began with a broad spectrum of search ideas and then refined down what I wanted to explore. For this exercise I needed to use images of apples as a start point for considering what the image of an apple could represent or signify. I could chose to explore apple images from art history or commercial visual communication. I started my search looking into both categories and have decided to narrow it down to the field of commercial visual communication.
I began my searches using two different online art libraries; Bridgeman Education and Tate Online. In the Bridgeman Education search engine I simply searched for images relating to the word ‘apple’. I knew this would give me a very broad range of images to chose from. In the Tate search engine I tried to be a bit more specific, searching for ‘apple symbolic’. This narrowed the search down significantly. I found that searching the Tate with that phrase meant most image results had the apple alongside, a woman, often provocatively posed or naked, signifying eve in the garden of Eden. Interestingly enough this symbolism or connotation of the apple is present even in more recent paintings.
This painting is a more traditional, romantic and religious approach to the meaning of the apple. Painted around 1884. The female figure, nude is seen apparently so engrossed in the apple tree that she is partially hidden by it. It suggests the temptation in the garden of Eden, and the connotation is of the apple as symbol of temptation, sin, biblical ideas and principles.
Below is another painting but produced much more recently, in 1940. It also has a literal depiction of an apple, this time apples in a fruit bowl. But again there are religious connotation or symbolism as the apple sits alongside other elements in the image. The table with the bread and wine has a striking visual link to the last supper, the woman appears quite forceful, with her arm straightened on the table. In that context the apple seems to have connotation of temptation, betrayal.
Apples in commercial visual communication:
The following links relate to images found on the Bridgeman Education online library. As a student with the OCA I have login access to the site but am not allowed to reproduce or use any images from the site in this blog. Therefore I have left links with commentary for my Tutor to read. If you are reading this post and do not have a membership with Bridgeman Education you may be unable to access the links, sorry about that!
In the link above, a 19th century poster advertising a perfume made from or with apple blossoms, the apple does not literally appear, but is in the title. A woman in a fine blue dress and sun hat is depicted smelling the blossom from an apple tree. I think here the apple or apple blossom signifies luxury, good taste, maybe even a wholesome naturally derived product. I think the use of the woman alongside is purely as the presumed audience or market for the perfume is women. There’s no connotation of biblical ideas of temptation or sin etc.
The apples featured in the above link are part of a label for apples being sold by the crate. The apples feature prominently in the centre of the illustration. They appear glossy, appealing, healthy. The background image has the sun rising over an apple orchard. It’s an idyllic scene, with connotations of the good life. It suggests the apple is perhaps a special or appealing item, particularly with the labels ‘Fancy Apples’. I think its lifting the apple beyond being just an average fruit to something more desirable.
Clive Uptton was an illustrator who produced illustrations for many Ladybird ‘Look and Learn’ books and for the magazine Treasure. In the illustration above there are a number of literal apples, in front of a young boy and girls who are both eating apples. The boy and girl have a healthy look to them, rosy cheeks, well kept appearance. The apples also have a gloss or shine to them. Here I think the connotation is of the apple as something for health purposes or a symbol of healthiness, youth, well-being. The phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ comes to mind.
It seems almost mandatory to discuss apple computers use of the apple for their branding and advertising. I found a series of compilations of examples of early apple product advertising featuring literal apples with various connotations.
In the advertising poster opposite, an literal apple takes central focus. It is a single, simple, but blemish free, vibrant red apple. Perhaps alone this would have different connotations but alongside the text ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ – it acts as a symbol of simple design but with beautiful results. There are no other objects to add any sense of connotations of biblical ideas of temptation, or really any health promoting properties.
In a later example of apple advertising, the apple is no longer presented literally. The apple is represented by a simplified shape with curves and rounded edges, but clearly to remind people of real apples. The apple is no longer coloured with traditional apple colouring (for instance red or green), but is filled with different coloured stripes. This reminds me of a rainbow. Here I think the connotation or symbolic use of the apple is as an representation of intelligence or different thinking, hence the phrase ‘think different’.
The bite sized chunk missing from the apple suggests that perhaps the intelligence is linked to the consuming of the fruit. Strangely enough this does link back to biblical ideas, as the tree in the garden was the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’. It seems like apple have subverted the negative connotation of the apple and turned it into a symbol of intelligence or gaining knowledge.
Links to articles on Apple Advertising:
Mott’s products – Apple’s as a symbol of healthiness:
Mott’s is an american producer of apple based fruit juices, snacks and sauces. In the advertisement opposite apples feature mostly in the background. They are arranged in what looks like apple crates. In the centre of the image sit a woman, presumably a mother with her children. The woman and her children appear healthy, happy. The boy is drinking (presumably) Mott’s apple juice. Alongside the caption the connotation here is of the apple as a health enhancer, a way for parents to provide nutrition for their children. There is the connotation of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, the apple as some sort of preserver or protector from ill health. It appears wholesome, there’s no hint of negative or religious connotations here!
This is perhaps the most intriguing use of an apple in visual communication. The advert on the left, produced for American Airlines, features a literal red apple, cut in chunks and arranged to mimic the shapes of the Sydney Opera House.
It took me awhile to figure out what the apple was supposed to represent or be symbolic of. But I think it’s supposed to be symbolic of New York, known also as ‘The Big Apple’. I reached this conclusion by looking at the text underneath the American Airlines Logo, which I think is supposed to be flights from New York to Sydney. So the apple is used in an entirely new way, not to suggest health or well-being, intelligence or temptation, but instead to represent a city.
The apple has been used heavily in commercial visual communication to signify a variety of things from the acquisition of knowledge or innovation to healthy living, even to represent the city of New York. It seems to be a chameleon of visual communication!!