A blossom festival in paintings 2

Nikolai Astrup (1880–1928), Apple Trees in Bloom (after 1920), oil on canvas, 54 x 88 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In the first of these two articles celebrating the arrival of Spring blossom on our trees, I had started with Samuel Palmer in about 1830, and was fast approaching the end of the nineteenth century.

Paul Sérusier (1864–1927), The White Cow (c 1895), tempera on canvas, 60 x 73 cm, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw, Poland. Wikimedia Commons.

Some sixty-five years after Palmer’s exuberant clouds of blossom, Paul Sérusier used a similar technique for The White Cow, from about 1895.

Laurits Andersen Ring (1854–1933), Spring. Ebba and Sigrid Kähler (1895), oil on canvas, 189.5 x 159 cm, Den Hirschsprungske Samling, Copenhagen, Denmark. Wikimedia Commons.

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 light touch with the blossom and spring flowers to avoid them dominating the figures.

Willard Metcalf (1858–1925), Dogwood Blossoms (1906), oil on canvas, dimensions not known, Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT. Wikimedia Commons.

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 (1867-1947), Early Spring (1908), oil on canvas, 87.6 x 132.1 cm, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. The Athenaeum.

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 improving weather.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), The Small House, Spring Evening (1909),oil on canvas, 50.8 x 61.5 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

The Small House, Spring Evening is an unusual landscape painted by Bonnard 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 (1861–1927), Sour Cherry Tree in Blossom (1909), oil on cardboard, 68 x 90 cm, Rippl-Ronai Museum, Kaposvár, Hungary. Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Georges Clairin (1843–1919), On the Balcony (c 1910), oil on canvas, 110.8 × 94.9 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

One of the eclectic Georges Clairin’s later paintings from about 1910 brings an elegant group out among lush blossoms On the Balcony.

Koloman Moser (1868–1918), Chestnut Tree in Blossom (c 1912), oil on canvas, 100.3 x 100 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

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 and rich in blossom.

John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), A Song of Springtime (1913), oil on canvas, 71.5 x 92.4 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

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, but still features plenty of cherry blossom. 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.

Helen Hyde (1868–1919), Blossom Time in Tokyo (1914), colour woodcut print, dimensions not known, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

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 Spring viewing of blossom.

Théo van Rysselberghe (1862–1926), Almond Trees in Blossom (Morning) (1918), oil on canvas, 46.5 x 65 cm, Private collection. WikiArt.

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.

Mykhaylo Berkos (1861–1919), Apple Tree in Blossom (1919), oil on wood, 23.5 x 43.8 cm, location not known. Image by Leonid Kulikov or Mykhailo Kvitka, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ukrainian artist Mykhaylo Berkos painted this classic Impressionist motif of an Apple Tree in Blossom in 1919, but this was to be his last Spring, as he died of typhus just before Christmas that year, at the age of only 58.

Nikolai Astrup (1880–1928), Apple Trees in Bloom (after 1920), oil on canvas, 54 x 88 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In the far north 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, painted after 1920.

Nikolai Astrup (1880–1928), Apple Tree in Bloom (c 1927), oil on canvas, 78 x 100 cm, Bergen Kunstmuseum, KODE, Bergen, Norway. The Athenaeum.

Painted in about 1927, Astrup’s Apple Tree in Bloom shows the trees in full blossom and marsh marigolds in flower.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), The Open Door (c 1937), media not known, 126.1 x 71.1 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

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 not just of Spring, but of eternity?