Strange and Spooky Spring

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-lilacs

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.

vrubel_demon

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.

7 thoughts on “Strange and Spooky Spring

  1. Lin says:

    As a passionate gardener myself, I loved your post. As I type this I look out of the window and see the woodland spring garden that I planted ten years ago. It’s gone wild since then of course, which makes it even more beautiful. I wish I could show you – I just know you’d love it.
    Imagine dappled sunlight shining on a carpet of wood anemones through which are pushing peonies and hundreds of purple and white tulips, which in turn surround brilliant red camellia bushes in full bloom. The overall effect is breathtaking.

    Mother nature, the ultimate artist 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Lin,

      That does sound breathtaking! You describe a magnificent scene. Woodland spring gardens are special because, you like you said they go wild and “garden themselves”, which is so dazzling to see. Yes, I wish you could show me!

      I don’t have peonies, but I’ve been wanting to plant a some. You’ve inspired me!

      Glad you enjoyed this post 🙂

      Claudia

  2. fred says:

    Fantastic post! I wasn’t familiar with Vrubel, but those paintings are great – I’ll have to look for more. Stravinsky goes well with them.

    I agree completely about the wild undercurrent of spring. There are also cultural seasons that reflect the natural seasons. Different kinds of movies come out at different times of the year, for example. Here in New York, in the major cultural institutions like the museums and the performing arts presenters, fall is the time for the prestige productions, big names, major retrospectives. But spring is the time for emerging artists, experimental work, risk-taking. Unpredictable like the weather, bursting out like buds and sprouts! Hail Spring!

    • artmodel says:

      Fred,

      I had never thought of that, about the cultural seasons running in accord with the weather seasons and reflecting the same moods. What a great observation.

      I wasn’t familiar with Vrubel either, but images can be found on the web. Quite a few actually.

      I second your “Hail Spring!” Now if the temperatures could just get a little warmer.

      Claudia

  3. Stephanie says:

    Claudia,

    I find both of these paintings absolutely beautiful. (And yes, the girl does look like you.) I have a fascination with lilacs. My mom had a beautiful lilac bush in Queens and the scent of lilac means spring to me (along with other dark images — too involved to go into here). In Miami, we are lucky to have beautiful weather and gorgeous plants, but we do not have spring and we do not have lilacs.

    I love the second painting, too. The demon is attractive, dangerous and tempting. I think it’s a perfect choice to herald spring. You’ve made me want to know much more about this artist.

    Wonderful post, as always.

    Love,
    Steph

    • artmodel says:

      Stephanie,

      The Vrubel “discovery”, for us Museworthy people, has been a nice hit. I’m as impressed with his work as you and Fred are. I didn’t find it though Google Image. I came upon it on through the ArtMagick site, one of my favorites:
      http://artmagick.com/

      Yes, few things remind us of spring more than the scent of lilacs. Store bought lilac branches you find in florists don’t have nearly the rich, potent aroma as garden bushes. All hothouse flowers lose their scent significantly. Even the roses.

      I’m so happy you enjoyed this post, Steph. I really enjoyed your comments. I knew you especially would see the beauty in the second image. It’s great!

      Love you,
      Claudia

  4. swatch says:

    I love the technique in the flowers of the demon painting – and the demon – the wistful rage of teenage passion – the wild undercurrents described by Fred – Ai! – a beautiful post and a great discussion – thanks Claudia

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