Last December I called a bunch of artist-friends and asked them to share their favorite winter paintings for an article celebrating the winter solstice. I didn’t expect to make it a series at the time, but the post was too much fun to put together and I learned way too much not to try it again.
To be honest, when I started I worried that spring would not have the gravitas that winter does, however now that it’s here the exuberance of spring is a delight. It has been a mild winter here in the American northeast, but the promise of warmer weather, longer days, and a gentle breeze are irresistible.
Without further ado, here are the joys of re-awakening.
Greg Manchess, no stranger to chunky brush strokes himself, picked this Abbott Handerson Thayer. “The man who created camouflage, captured how Spring melded into similar tones, created the feeling of new birth by using different values and temperatures of green. The lack of detail is scrumptious.”
Richard Anderson, more commonly known for concept art and fantasy book covers, showing he can hold his own among any landscape artist, past or present.
A quiet spring from Jean baptiste Camile Corrot.
Dave Seeley, “Here in Boston, we’re always late to the party, so when I think spring, I think of that kelly green from first buds on still-diaphanous trees and just an early bloom or two. Too many of blooms puts me into summer already. This sweet Hugh Bolton Jones painting gets it perfectly for me.”
John Jude Palencar introduced my to Giovanni Segantini in the winter post and I am thankful for it. Here are two he picked for spring.
The great John Singer Sargent with “Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose.” (Trivia: Sargent’s grand nephew, also John Sargent, is the head of Macmillan, and therefore my uber boss.)
N. C. Wyeth. Migrating birds. This feels so much like those nights you revel being just a tad cold — finally shedding winter, and hoping to put off summer just a little while longer.
Arnie Fenner and Greg Manchess picked this J. C. Leyendecker Saturday Evening Post cover. I love how pagan it is next to his quiet and proper Easter cover below. (The Easter cover is a recent acquisition of Society of Illustrators and it’s fantastic in person.)
Charley Parker (of the must-read art blog Lines and Colors) picked out two Daniel Ridgeway Knight paintings. This “Hailing the Ferry” and ‘Spring Blossoms’ further down. Parker says, “Knight was an under-appreciated 19th century American painter who studied and lived much of his life in France. His understated scenes of peasant women in atmospheric landscapes are marvels of muted value contrasts.”
Marc Burckhardt. Normally you don’t root for the snake above the bunny but...those poor eggs.
Michael Kaluta with J. N. Hunt and the very picture of relaxation.
Astronomical artist Ron Miller picked two fantasy pieces from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The first, Stephen Hickman depicting Galadriel and her harp, the second by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt .
Scott Bakal, “I thought for this inclusion, I would pick one my favorite painters to put in, Vincent Van Gogh. This painting, ‘Orchard in Blossom, Painted in Arles’ was painted in March which is perfect for this post and to me this piece looked perfectly like Spring. His choice of colors and subject matter. The light greens and sparely leaved trees just about ready to fully pop into life says Spring to me. I also have some fondness for where this painting was created, Arles France. I was lucky enough to spend nearly a month in this city and got to see all the places that Van Gogh had painted.”
Alphonse Mucha is so well known for his amazing line work, many overlook his great painting skills.
From Zeldon Devon, “Craig Mullins, that guy knows something about how light works. Oh, and (surprise), one of his main influences is Sargent.”
Greg Manchess, “Unfamiliar as I am with Thomas Millie Dow, I couldn’t resist the overwhelming solitude created by the mass of green, perfect detail, and delicate sun.”
Jon Schindehette, “Spring always brings the farm to life, and the idea of fresh spring milk is always something I looked forward to. Always loved the atmosphere and light in this N. C. Wyeth.”
....and this watercolor from John Singer Sargent.
Charley Parker, “J. W. Waterhouse was fond of the theme of young women picking wildflowers in the Spring and returned to it often. I love the frequently overlooked backgrounds in paintings like these. His line of trees looks almost like an Art Nouveau pattern. His style is much more painterly than the work of the Pre-Raphaelite painters with whom he was associated.”
Czech painter, Antonin Slavicek and a hypnotic brich forest.
Frederick Walker’s Spring.
Kurt Huggins on this lovely Claude Monet. “I’m sure like most people spring makes me think of the return of color, and it’s hard to think of someone more obsessed with color than Claude Monet. I love the glowing pink in this as well as the spots of dappled light...I could probably write something more articulate but honestly, spring is a season that should be seen rather than talked about.”
John Anster Fitzgerald’s the Fledgling.
Michael Kaluta picked Swedish fairy tale artist John Bauer. I dind’t look up the title to this one, namely because I find it to be such a funny and charming iamge on it’s own. I almost don’t want to know the original context is.
Jon Schindehette, on Norman Rockwell’s Springtime. “You can’t forget the epitome of the Americana spring image. I always wondered what she was whispering to him to illicit such a wistful look.” (Whatever it is, it does not look like a frivolous secret.)
Charles Vess is an artist fully atuned to nature and creates trees that often feel sentient.
Spring or Summer? I’m not sure but, any excuse to look at the Maurice Sendak. This one from Dear Mili.
Arnie Fenner, publisher of many volumes on Frank Frazetta picked this expression of pure joy.
...and spring showers from James Jean.
Even robots can delight in fireflies. Concept artist Fujita Goro has done dozens of super-charming robot speed-paintings. If you ever need to smile, check him out.
Stephan Martiniere’s cover for Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet. . There are summer, winter, and autumn volumes that are just as great.
Honestly, I can’t tell if this is fall or summer but the idea of climbing trees, tire-swings, and the promise of skinned knees, makes me crave a summer to come. So, ladies and gents, the great Jillian Tamaki.
Teresa N. Fischer has been doing a great series of paintings that bring an inexplicable narrative to old toys. And what can be more spring than a bird song?
To bring it back to fantasy, Kekai Kotaki with one of my favorite Tor covers, The Unremembered.
Andrew Wyeth. I just love the warmth in this. Wyeth is a master at making you fall in love with stark, lonely spaces just like this.
Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises. Of course.
Vanessa Lemen. I was asked why this reminds me of spring...I find it fleeting and transitional and seems to be on the verge of flight, just like spring.
Robert Hunt picked an Andrew Wyeth, “One of the first books I ever bought was The Art of Andrew Wyeth. I wore that book out, I studied every picture and started to develop almost a psychic attachment to the bleak rural landscapes in his egg tempera paintings. This painting always felt like the turning point of the seasons to me, some warm sunlight leaking into a corner of a stark Pennsylvanian winter.”
Greg Manchess picked ‘Arques-la-Bataille” by John Henry Twachtman, “The beauty of this painting lies in it’s subtle understatement. Quiet, like spring, it feels as if it’s waiting to sprout into full bloom, but I love the waiting. Those reeds are the best of Japanese print influence. Gentle and graceful.” (It is hanging at the Met. If you are in New York City, go and see it in person.)
Canadian artist Tom Thompson, one of my favorite landscape artists. True to nothern climate, it’s a sunny and bright spring but you can feel the bite of the arctic in this painting, “Spring Ice.”
Once Chris Buzelli brought up Fantasia, I thought of this sketch from Bambi. If you ever want to see pure drawing chops, look at concept artists.
Sam Burley, a young New England artist brought up this Hudson River School painting from Thomas Cole, ‘The rain, the mist, the colors, the sunrise, the birth of humanity. It’s not his best piece, but it’s one of my favorites just the same and it evokes spring (albeit a harsh spring) on so many levels.”
Irene Gallo is the Creative Director of Tor.com and Tor Books and is very much looking forward to summer.