You can’t really get more on the nose with art inspired by the seasons than Pierre Auguste Cot’s mid-19th century piece, Springtime. A beautiful oil painting, it depicts a pair of young lovers on a swing, amid a scene of rich green trees and flowers, gazing at each other in wonder as they revel in the vibrant scene around them.
Springtime is a time of new beginnings, fresh growth, and newfound hope; new love, new dreams, and new thoughts. All such emotions of the season are captured in this painting. Nature, both human and foliage, shine through. The lovers are locked in a close embrace, seemingly drunk off their fondness for one another, the woman in question with a look of pure adoration on her face. She’s fair, with mousy hair and dressed in a classical garb with a Greek twist, implying imagery of the fae, ancient gods, and other mythical creatures that may run rampant in the undergrowth. The man also is dressed similarly, with a narrow and slender frame, again implying the impishness common in depictions of the fae. With their statures, the sunlight streaming down on their faces (surrounding the woman like a halo), their bare feet as to be even closer to the dirt beneath them, and carefree, flowing clothes, both youths embody those same springtime emotions, and appear at one with the nature that surrounds them. They are separate from the urban world, completely disconnected from all social cues of the period, instead more fitting to a world of myth, uncontrolled nature and magic.
The vibrancy of the painting is rich, with the deep greens of the forest around the two lovers, the soft tones of their skin, and darker, deep tones of the man’s clothing. The lively colours of the environment reflects the clear passion both subjects feel for one another, the woman’s face lit in a haze of pleasure and happiness, as well as the inference of life that just spills forth from the piece; it is overwhelming with both human and plant life both, inferring the sheer spirit of the painting. There’s a sense of calmness and peace, the pair lazy and content in eachothers company, the scene around them serene and simple.
Springtime is a scene, ironically, out of time. It doesn’t capture the time of springtime, the months that encompass the season, but the myth of springtime. A babbling brook, swaying trees, flowers in bloom, a feeling of lazy content: Springtime embodies all of this. The lovers are enraptured by not only one another, but the scene around them that fuels that love. The scene before us feels are though our two young sweethearts feel as though they have been gazing at one another for eternity, and are happy to keep doing so, for the rest of time.
Pierre Auguste Cot’s Springtime is currently on display in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.