Spring is tantalizing. It teases us with its suggestion of all that is to come. Trees are budding, crops being planted, trees and grasses showing their spring greens, early flowers lend a touch of color. But it is only a beginning – a fertile beginning.
In the same way this painting is a suggestion of spring, a sketch really, a promise. The yellow-greens of meadow and tree leaves are spring colors. The lights and darks of freshly turned soil, waiting for planting, are other signs of spring. The red hues of earth in the background suggest fertile, waiting soil.
Nothing looks complete. The trees and houses are blocks of colour – our mind completes them. The roofs in the distance are red, echoing the roughly blocked in colors of the soil. Those hues are picked up again in the glimpse of sky at the top of the painting, in areas of the trees in the background.
The figure in the foreground catches our eye – he is outlined darkly, filled in simply, his shadow lying across the ground behind him. He is working along lines of tilled soil. It looks as if he is hoeing a field, getting it ready for planting.
Behind him trees rise vertically, crossing the horizontal lines of fields and low hills. Only the man and the tree beside him curve away from those lines, each leaning toward the other, and his shadow breaks the ploughed line running across behind him. The trees lend their roundness to the painting, their leaves and branches barely suggested within the shape of each tree.
The painter was Joszef Rippl-Ronai, a Hungarian artist who studied art in Munich and Paris, where he came to know and appreciate other artists working in various styles. His fertile mind was influenced by the naturalistic tradition of Munich, then by the Impressionists in Paris. When he returned to his own country he developed his own style, loose and full of light, very different from that traditionally accepted by his countrymen.
Change is not easy, and new approaches are not always welcomed. At first his work and ideas were not readily accepted. It took time for them to be appreciated and enjoyed, and then he found himself at the forefront of artistic change in Hungary.
This painting gives you an idea of how he worked. Rather than tell the viewers what to see, it invites them to complete the picture in their own minds. And yet there is a formality to its lines and composition.
Like Spring, it teases and is fertile – fertile ground for the imagination.