Happy Easter wishes to all my readers who celebrate. To those who don’t, happy spring wishes! Here in the Northeast we’re blessed with a beautiful Easter Sunday of clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. Could be a little warmer for my taste, but I’ll take it.
I adore springtime. I start thinking about it longingly as early as January. What’s not to love about spring? We are seduced by the mild temperatures, the “buzz” in the air, the irresistible invitation to go outside at every opportunity for walking and bicycling, and the lively activity of birds and animals stimulated in pursuit of “sexy times” 😉
For weeks I’ve been planning to write a “Spring is here!” post for Museworthy, and already started selecting very pretty – although predictable- art images for the occasion; Pre-Raphaelite, John William Waterhouse kind of stuff, with lovely barefoot lasses picking flowers in meadows and mountain valleys, gathering bundles of daffodils and dandelions, etc. But once I caught a glimpse of work by Russian Symbolist painter Mikhail Vrubel, I thought, “Hmm . . . wild!” Let’s shake things up, and take a different route, and break away from the traditional “spring is so pretty and happy and lighthearted” perception. It is all those things, it’s true, but it also has a dark, mercurial, tense undercurrent. Transformative stages always do. And a bizarre, unorthodox take on a conventional theme makes for a refreshing change.
Spring is particularly thrilling for those of us who love to garden. By March, we find ourselves chomping at the bit at the opportunity to start turning the soil and get our seeds into the ground. I especially love watching already-planted perennials come “back to life”. In my garden, those stars of spring rebirth are my beloved lilac bushes. I have two beauties going on seven years now, and they are my pride and joy. Check out Vrubel’s version of a lush, overflowing lilac garden. From 1900 this is, simply, Lilacs. Ok, maybe this is silly, but doesn’t that girl look a little like me? 😆
Vrubel received criticism for this piece, Demon Seated in a Garden, from 1890. He was accused of “wild ugliness”, but I find it quite beautiful. Odd, weird, very unusual, maybe a touch creepy. It doesn’t repel or disturb me at all. I, like many people, often see beauty in strangeness.
Let’s finish our commemoration of springtime with a compatriot of Vrubel, fellow Russian and brilliant musical visionary, Igor Stravinsky. I owe my love and appreciation of Stravinsky’s masterpiece “The Rite of Spring” to my brother Chris, who is a tremendous admirer of Stravinsky. In fact, don’t ever criticize Stravinsky in Chris’ presence, he might just beat the shit out of you! The 1913 Paris premiere of “The Rite of Spring” is famous for the rioting and scandal that ensued, it was that groundbreaking, and unlike anything anyone had heard up until then.
It is an expressive, enigmatic, innovative work of musical composition. I was even listening to it on my iPod the other day during my long break at the New York Academy of Art. Like Vrubel’s paintings, the mood and events of the spring season are imbued with darkness, turbulence, intense power, and the “violence” that inevitably comes with change. What Stravinsky does here is pure genius. Inspired by pagan fertility rites, he communicates the rousing, the awakening, the perpetual and insistent flux of life on earth. You can almost see and feel plants aggressively pushing up out of thawing earth, flocks of migrating birds swooshing through the air, wind blowing through still-bare tree branches, and the stirring feeling that distinguishes spring from all other seasons. If you have 16 minutes to spare, listen to this track, part 1 of “The Rite of Spring, titled “Adoration of the Earth”. Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra.