Fascinated by the play of light filtering through the trees onto the tangled undergrowth, it’s no wonder why Vincent van Gogh made so many paintings of such scenes.
The effect of light changes from one minute to the next as clouds pass overhead and the breeze affects the movement of the leaves. The time of day also plays a role in how warm the light will appear on foliage and bark.
Nature is always changing, never stagnant, but some environments tend to reveal that quality more than others, and it’s no surprise that it’s in those places that we most feel alive.
In springtime, new undergrowth looks especially fresh as a myriad of tiny plants blend together to create a living mosaic. Ferns unfurled add a lushness to the forest floor. Carpets of green wood sorrel replace last autumn’s dried leaves.
The emergent undergrowth provides a contrast to the vertical lines of the lichen covered trees. As saplings, these trees too were once a part of the undergrowth. Now their ongoing competition for light forces them to soar above one another, revealing their green lushness only in the canopy.
Although he often exaggerated the intensity of Nature’s palette, van Gogh understood the importance of being outdoors to witness the effect of light on a landscape. Pictures and photographs can only begin to tell the story. Whether or not you’re a painter, the woods are waiting for a visit from you to show off their new spring growth.
It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…. The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.
~ Vincent van Gogh
Paintings by Vincent van Gogh shown above:
Trees and Undergrowth (1887)
Section of Undergrowth with Two Figures (June 1890 Auvers)
Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012