Arts Everyday Living: Escaping Social Distancing—Spring, A Rebirth Through Art!




Spring is finally here in the Northern Hemisphere!  To celebrate its arrival, here’s a mini-gallery of spring themes, created by a variety of artists such as French Impressionists Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) plus their American counterparts Childe Hassam (1859-1935), Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), John Leslie Breck (1860-1899) and Granville Redmond (1871-1935). The works of two other painters are included: German Heinrich Vogeler (1872-1942), who often combined realism with a sense of poetry, and Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), who although Dutch born, spent most of his career in Great Britain where he achieved success especially with scenes inspired by Classical antiquity.

And finally, to close, an interpretation of blooming irises by Dutch super-star Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

The accompanying quotes represent an international cast across the centuries: from William Shakespeare and Japanese woman poet Ome Shushiki to nineteenth century poets Brit Christina Rossetti and American Emily Dickinson as well as Americans Henry David Thoreau and  novelist Julia C. R. Dorr to twentieth century literary figures German Rainer Maria Rilke, Canadian L.M. Montgomery (renowned for her Anne of Green Gables series), Americans F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.


Heinrich Vogeler, Spring, 1897, oil on canvas, Lower Saxony Sparkasse Foundation, Hanover, Germany

It is spring again.  The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

This is one of my favorites.  The color of the grass, the sky, her dress, etc., are so fresh and spring-like.  I was struck with how dominant the woman is in the scene.  She is tall enough to be level with the bird in the tree. I wonder if she is the personification of Mother Nature admiring her work or is she just part of the strong vertical pull of the painting with the birch trees?  I’m also curious about what she is holding in her right hand.

Kay Oshel


John Leslie Breck, Apple Trees, c. 1889, oil on canvas, Private Collection

There is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.

L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942)

Breck’s Apple Trees is a treat for the eyes.  I like the way the upper half of the painting is dominated by the white of the blossoms with three horizontal bands below the stone wall, the shadows on the grass, and then the grass itself with the two rocks echoing the white of the blossoms as well.

Kay Oshel


Lawrence Alma-Tadea, Flora, Spring in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, 1877, oil on canvas, Private Collection

But I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)


Childe Hassam, Washington Arch, Spring, 1890, oil on canvas, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

There is no time like spring,

When life’s alive in everything…

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Childe Hassam’s Washington Square is another one of my favorites. It seems like a spring symphony in whites and greens.  The parade of tall trees that are just leafing out seem to spread a protective covering over the street and the sidewalk; perhaps echoing the white canopy shielding the baby carriage on the sidewalk as well as the sheltering arch itself. It makes me want to rush over to the Phillips to see the painting in person!

Kay Oshel


Camille Pissarro, Place du Theatre Français, Spring, 1898, Hermitage Museum

With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning.

Ernest Hemingway (memory of Paris), (1899-1961)

The colors and tones in the Pissarro seem so different from the previous paintings. Instead of bright sunlight and vivid whites, he has a more muted palette of beige, green, and rusty red.  Here the artist looks from above on people who are busy going about their daily routine in the city, not consciously enjoying the pleasure of spring as in many of the other paintings.  However, you sense they can still enjoy the season in their open-air omnibus ride.

Kay Oshel


Pierre Auguste Renoir, Chestnut Tree in Bloom, 1881, oil on canvas, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany

When proud-pied April, when dressed in all his trim,

Hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Spring Bouquet, 1866,  oil on canvas, Fogg Museum (Harvard Art Museums), Cambridge, Massachusetts

The older I grow the more I love spring and spring flowers.  Is it so with you?

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I love the Renoir Spring Bouquet which shows how a painting can represent the essence of spring without showing the outside world.

Kay Oshel


Granville Redmond, Malibu Coast Spring, c. 1929, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Spring… experience in immortality.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Granville Redmond’s work is my third favorite.  I love his colors–all the shades of blue especially and the pops of gold.

Kay Oshel


Willard Metcalf, Buttercup Time, 1920, oil on canvas, Telefair Museums, Savannah, Georgia

The buttercups, bright-eyed and bold, hold up their chalices of gold to catch the sunshine and the dew.

Julia C. Dorr (1825-1913)

Speaking of golds, Metcalf’s Buttercup Time is amazing with all the yellows and golds in the bottom half of the composition and then the narrow band of buildings and trees topped by the blue and white of the sky.

Kay Oshel


Vincent van Gogh, Iris, 1889, oil on thinned cardboard mounted on canvas, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Dead my own fine hopes

And dry my dreaming but still…

Iris, blue each spring.

Ome Shushiki (1669-1725), Japanese Haiku

Van Gogh’s Irises is my last favorite. The flower stems seem  vertical and draw your eye upward as much as Vogeler’s birch trees.  As always, Van Gogh’s colors and brushwork are amazing.




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