Springtime ca. 1894-99
Maurice Denis (French, 1870-1943)
Oil on canvas; 31 1/2 x 38 1/2 in.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (image)
This awful weather we are having, wet snow and chilly temperatures, needs to stop. It has inspired thoughts of spring (which was here on Saturday!) so here is a painting with a perfect title, springtime. As we are also nearing Easter, Denis' painting is particularly fitting.
"Denis draws a parallel between the flowering sapling in the center (a symbol of spring, renewal, and Easter) and the maidens." (Heilbrunn Timeline)
Maurice Denis was a founding member of the Nabis group and associated with the Symbolists, active in the late 19th century (1888-1899). Spirituality and theory drove his work. The Nabis blurred the boundaries between art and craft, rejecting representational painting, preferring to focus on shape and color which is particularly evident in this work by Denis. While this is a study for a much larger, more detailed painting, many of Denis' works maintain this soft color palette, idealizing figures, presenting an abstract idea as opposed to a specific event through the flatness of the picture plane. This flatness was one of the lead ins to the modernism of the early 20th century.