By: Kiera Mitru
As the daffodils point their golden trumpets to the sky to blare their horns in celebration of spring, we are called to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the awakening nature around us. These moments of growth and rebirth have inspired some of the greatest minds for centuries. With the buds on the trees again and groups of students freckling the quad a sense of rebirth and renewal is unfurling on campus and across the region.
During a normal year I take several trips to some of New York City’s most revered art museums, my favorite of which being the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have sorely missed these informal field trips and listening to the stories each piece of art has to tell me. My favorite pieces of art are usually the loudest in the gallery room, the ones with the most flowers, the most emotion; the pieces that are rich with melodrama.
In celebration of springtime and of art as we know it, here are a few of my favorite artistic interpretations of nature’s eternal renaissance.
“Mourning Victory from the Melvin Memorial” by Daniel Chester
This piece is located in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which happens to resemble a very large greenhouse. This area is light, airy and mesmerising to any lover of American art. When viewing this piece from any side other than the front of the sculpture the marble block is striking in its simplicity, but upon greeting the front of the sculpture, viewers see the image of a woman stepping forward with a stem of laurel in hand. Laurel leaves symbolize victory and knowledge, which can be understood to empower the figure in this piece to step forward out of the dreary winter and into the vibrance of spring. While carved out of marble, this statue captures movement impossibly well, nodding again to the fluidity and awakening that take place during the spring season.
“Landscape: The Parc Monceau” by Claude Monet
Claude Monet is one of the masters of Impressionism, a movement in art history originating in France that captures the artist’s direct impression of the moment. Typically, in Impressionist paintings, artists will leave dots and dabs of paint in order to depict changes in lighting and movement, resulting in a distinct and admirable sense of passing time within the piece. This piece portrays a landscape, but with such a close eye to detail that it invites the viewer to imagine how being in that park may feel or what it might sound like. This landscape represents a quiet spring afternoon and reminds me of my own backyard. Monet emphasizes the texture of the plants that surround him and skillfully captures the fragile verdance of the season in this setting.
“Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Isles of Shoals, Maine” by Childe Hassam
From the moment I first saw this piece, I knew I had to find a way to look at it over and over again. As someone who collects postcards, I made it a point to stop by the gift shop at the MET for a souvenir of Childe Hassam’s gorgeous little wildflowers to place on my wall. In this piece, I love how the floral red and peach colors add a pop of brightness to the otherwise dull beach scene. This livens up the painting and helps to frame the expanse of the ocean seen in this piece. Hssam’s warm wildflowers in this piece remind me of a swift spring breeze; the kind that makes you sit up a little straighter and keeps you moving in the right direction.
“La Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli
As an Italian minor and art history nerd, it comes as no surprise that I am a big fan of Sandro Botticelli’s work. During my semester in Italy, I had the opportunity to see this famous piece in person and was shocked at the sheer size of this painting. For reference, “La Primavera” is so big that the figures depicted in this image are life-sized. Botticelli’s work here is a pagan interpretation of the onset of spring, conveyed through strikingly life-like figures and intense attention to detail. In Botticelli’s garden there are over 190 different plants represented in this painting, which highlight the theme of growth that takes shape during the spring. Among the figures represented are Zephyrus – the wind that comes with spring. Next to him is Chloris – a nymph attempting to kidnap Flora to her left. Flora is the goddess of springtime who is believed to protect agriculture and female fertility. Venus stands at the center and is standing at a higher position than those that she shares the garden with. Her presence in this painting nods to the romance of springtime and the unity between Zephyrus and Chloris. Above Venus is Cupid who further stresses the theme of romance in this interpretation of the beginnings of spring. The three women on the left side of the piece represent the three Graces who are goddesses of beauty, charity, creativity, goodwill, and fertility. The last figure on the left is Jupiter, a god who protects the union taking place between Chloris and Zephyrus. This piece was commissioned by the Medici family, whose influence on Italian Renaissance art is resounding. This piece is dearly beloved by art historians everywhere and the mystery behind its story draws its viewers in even further than its visuals. This classic and heavily debated piece is among the most famous in the world, and rightfully so!
As the spring of 2021 continues to bud and blossom, take the time to notice the renewal of nature around you. Pass some time watching squirrels or taking pictures of the pink blossoms scattered throughout Padua Beach, or even the yellow blur of forsythia through the window as you drive past, maybe even searching for dandelions whose crowns coronate patches of grass. The semester’s delayed start this year means students have the opportunity to witness the landscape around us preparing a majestic farewell, until returning for a new greeting come September.