“Springtime” Brings Joy

Caroline Li

More stories from Caroline Li

Springtime Brings Joy

Boston, Saturday

My friend Yinuo and I stood at the bus stop, staring out with emptiness in our eyes, and she murmured, “Why do I feel nothing?”

Cars drove past the pond, splashing water mixed with rain. I looked up; the grey sky reflected in the murky water like the extension of the tar road. COVID-19, the forest fires in America, and the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant; it seemed like everything exploded this year. I patted her shoulder to show understanding, but life had to go on.

I asked, “ Do you know a painting named Springtime?”

The rain fell. She blinked, curiosity in her eyes.

I said: ”Well, that’s my favorite painting. I like to look at it closely whenever I feel down. It’s not that famous, but I know a little bit about it…”

Springtime was painted by Pierre Auguste Cot, a French artist who was born in 1837. Many people don’t know Cot. He successfully made his debut in the salon in 1863, and seven years later he gained widespread popularity. He was what is known as an “academic artist” meaning that he had a preference for classical themes, idealized representations, and high saturation colors. Academic art, first introduced by Medici in 1563, came after the movements of neoclassicism and romanticism, and combined the advantages of both.

I proceeded to describe the painting to Yinuo. It shows two people sitting on the swing in a forest. The arms of the boy hold two ropes of the swing and provide the girl with a gentle shoulder. At the same time, the girl softly embraces the boy with wind-like tenderness in her eyes. Their toes touch each other lightly as a beam of spring light flows through leaves to the girl’s rosy cheek. 

The artist, painting in oil on canvas, uses grass green in the background to emphasize the two characters, and the swing serves as a smaller frame to increase the intimacy between them. The girl’s clothes seem wet, and the artist creates a sense of lightness by depicting the texture and the drapes on the girl’s cloth.

I think the painting creates an ethereal vibe. The background of the painting is blurred, which seems like a foggy morning or afternoon dripping wet by the sunlight. Everything about the scene feels leisurely. The girl is like an angel under the sun, and the boy seems to whisper to the girl. This painting feels like a quiet and beautiful moment in a fast world, and no one wants to intrude. It is spring, plants growing, birds singing, and people are in love.

“…Everyday life can be like this painting, simple and cozy,” I told Yinuo. “We just need a sunny day, somebody special that will make you smile, and a big hug.” 

As if on cue, it stopped raining, and a rainbow rippled in the pond. After a while, Yinuo let out a long breath and held on to me. “Oh! Ok, but friends also count,” she said.

I nodded. She gave me back a glaring look. The bus finally arrived.

Springtime is on permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; it can also be viewed here.