In the first of these two articles yesterday, I looked at a selection of paintings of tree blossom spanning much of the nineteenth century. This sequel takes the account on to just before the Second World War.
Laurits Andersen Ring’s finely detailed double portrait of Spring. Ebba and Sigrid Kähler from 1895 appears to show a mother and her daughter talking in their garden, but the two are in fact sisters. At the right is Sigrid, the year before her wedding, at the left is her sister Ebba, who was fifteen at the time. Ring uses a very light touch with the blossom and spring flowers to avoid them dominating the figures. This was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris.
For Willard Metcalf, Dogwood Blossoms (1906) is an opportunity to explore the shimmering effects of dappled light, and how it can break the forms of large boulders.
Pierre Bonnard painted Early Spring in 1908, shortly after his return to France from a visit to North Africa. The children are probably from the Terrasse family, close friends, who are enjoying their garden as it comes into bloom in the better weather.
The Small House, Spring Evening is an unusual landscape which Bonnard painted in 1909. It offsets the rich blossom on the trees at the left against the plain wall of a house, seen in the failing light.
József Rippl-Rónai was the founding father of modern painting in Hungary, and in 1909 painted this Sour Cherry Tree in Blossom, in which the flowers overwhelm the whole painting.
Late in his career, Hans Andersen Brendekilde painted many idyllic rural works, including Farmhouse with Meadow Flowers from 1909. This shows a tumbledown thatched cottage somewhere in the Danish countryside, with the artist’s loose brushstrokes giving a shimmer to the blossom on the tree in bloom.
One of the eclectic Georges Clairin’s later paintings from about 1910 brings an elegant group out among the lush blossoms On the Balcony.
Best known now for his design rather than paintings, Koloman Moser’s Chestnut Tree in Blossom from about 1912 tackles a demanding motif, its building deeply foreshortened at the right and with a complex projection in 3D. The roof behind the chestnut flows into an unseen dormer, and the tree itself is finely-crafted.
John William Waterhouse’s A Song of Springtime from 1913 has lost much of the narrative from more classical accounts of Flora and the Spring. Flora appears with her breasts bared, and a skirtful of daffodils or narcissi – perhaps a cross-reference to Poussin’s figure of Narcissus in his Empire of Flora. The Graces of old have been replaced by young children.
By the First World War, Western artists were not just collecting and studying the art of south-east Asia, but some went to live in countries such as Japan. Among these was the American printmaker Helen Hyde, who mastered colour woodcut prints as shown in her Blossom Time in Tokyo, from 1914. This shows the tea ceremony taking place during the viewing of blossom in Spring.
By the end of the war, Théo van Rysselberghe’s colours had become as strong as those of the Fauves. In Almond Trees in Blossom (Morning) the more delicate pinks of the flowers pale in comparison with his full reds and blues – even down to the blue horse pulling a plough.
At the opposite end of Europe, the Norwegian Nikolai Astrup made blossom a part of many of his paintings of Spring and early summer, as in his Apple Trees in Bloom, which he painted after 1920.
Painted in about 1927, Astrup’s Apple Tree in Bloom shows the trees in full blossom and marsh marigolds in flower.
My final painting of blossom has to be from Pierre Bonnard, The Open Door from about 1937. Here we look out through the frame of French windows, to a table which has escaped into the landscape, and dazzles against the brilliant blossom beyond. Isn’t this a glimpse of eternity?