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Birdies, Flowers and Virgins: Real Meanings Of Spring In Art

Seasons

Birdies, Flowers and Virgins: Real Meanings Of Spring In Art

Spring is my favourite season and it seems to be a favourite season of many artists throughout history. Is it for its blossoming flowers, singing birds and longer days? Or is it rather for its many symbolic connotations, such as ideas of rebirth, resurrection, awakening of life and desires, which have been perpetuated across cultures, religions and nations for centuries?

Eternal Will To Shock

spring in art Auguste Rodin, Eternal Spring,1900, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Auguste Rodin, Eternal Spring, 1900, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Ach, Rodin and his fondness for shocking… In the 1900 such explicit scenes reinforced by stark realism of technique were a real novelty in sculpture. Here Rodin alludes to the meaning of spring as the season of lovers. The arched back of the woman’s body which is at the same time perfectly balanced by the man’s pose intensifies our sensation of their passion which seems to be so strong to last eternally.
(Imagine, however, to be obliged to keep kissing forever…Pretty breathtaking, isn’t it!)

Perhaps not the best beginning of the season

spring in art Paul Gauguin, The Loss Of Virginity (Awakening Of Spring), 1891, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, US

Paul Gauguin, The Loss Of Virginity (Awakening Of Spring), 1891, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA


This young girl seems to be reflecting on the events of the past night when she lost her virginity. Who with? Was it right here, in the countryside, or was it in a village from which she ran away? Are a small bird and a dog, or is it wolf (?), trying to comfort her, or are they just her usual companions? Who are the people in the background? Gauguin as always doesn’t give us enough clues to guess. This work, from his first Tahitian period, is full of unsettling colour contrasts and unanswered doubts. Yet, the girl’s tense face does not herald anything good…

Like in Hitchcock’s films

spring in art Rene Magritte, Spring, 1965, Private collection

Rene Magritte, Spring, 1965, Private collection

Have you seen Hitchcock’s “Birds”? This late Magritte’s painting, painted two years before his death, brings me back to the atmosphere of this film. At first gaze everything seems to be fine: the clear spring sky, a bird, trees… Yet, if we look closely we can see that the bird’s shape is suspiciously very generic and moreover it reproposes the pattern, also very generic, of the forest. The only real object here is the nest, riskily placed on the brink of this wall. Is the bird protecting the eggs, or is it rather going to steal them? I’d better go to watch BBC’s “Natural World” to calm my nerves.

Childhood Memories Awaken

spring in art Salvador Dali, The First Days Of Spring, 1929, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL

Salvador Dali, The First Days Of Spring, 1929, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL


The primary influence for this work is most probably Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams”, in which he argued that people’s fears, desires and neuroses were the results of their childhood experiences. Dali placed a photo of himself as a child in the center of this canvas, in the middle of the highway, suggesting that various images around it relate to his own childhood. Strange figures which seem to be totally disconnected from each other in this grey wasteland, are in reality all united by the free associations of Dali’s dreams and memories.

Renewal of a woman is a renewal of life?

spring in art Galileo Chini, Spring Which Perennially Renews Itsself, 1914, Property of the family Chini

Galileo Chini, Spring Which Perennially Renews Itsself, 1914, Property of the family Chini

Chini follows here the trend started by Klimt and other Art Nouveau painters who associated the figure of woman with concepts of primordiality, life and nature. Here, spring is personified as the figure of Primavera, a woman of beauty and eternal youth who every year renews herself after winter. Look at the decorative technique of this work which is a direct reference to Klimt’s paintings.


Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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