The ability of the brilliant Russian painter Igor Grabar to convey the moment when winter is about to surrender its position to spring has never been challenged by either critics or ordinary viewers. The painting “February Azure” surprisingly transports us to the winter forest, which is already preparing to throw off the shackles of winter. She is saturated with the mood of this coming change to the last stroke.
“I was standing next to a marvelous specimen of birch, rare in its rhythmic structure of branches. Looking at her, I dropped the stick and bent down to pick it up. When I looked at the top of the birch from below, from the surface of the snow, I was stunned by the spectacle of fantastic beauty that opened before me: some chimes and echoes of all the colors of the rainbow, united by the blue enamel of the sky. It should be noted that Grabar possessed the most important quality of a true painter – he was able to truly see, that is, to perceive in the world around him much more than what opens to the ordinary look.
The work on this picture, which he later considered the most important in his work, proceeded in a very peculiar way: the sketch was painted from a trench that Grabar dug in deep snow. In this trench the artist settled himself with an easel and a large canvas in search of a stronger impression of a low horizon and a high sky (later this “trench” method was used by him in other full-scale works). From this point, the artist was able to reveal all the variety of blue tones in the gradation from light green to ultramarine – what Ilya Ostroukhov would later call the “Indian sky”. The vertical format of the picture, as in the White Winter, accentuates the plasticity of the birch, which spread its fan branches like wings, and emphasizes the infinity of the azure space.
The perspective chosen by the artist is interesting: the viewer looks at the image from below, this expands the space of the picture. A lot of light colors were used in the work – white birches, snow, sky. But, despite this, the bright light color of the work does not interfere with its comfortable perception. In addition to a large number of whitish shades, the artist also uses colors traditionally associated with the arrival of spring: blue and ultramarine. The combination of colors helps the viewer understand that the days of winter are numbered and very soon spring will come into its own.
The main character of Grabar’s painting “February Azure” is, of course, the birch in the foreground. Its branches stand out clearly against the background of the spring blue sky. Frost sparkles on them, framing the Russian beauty with a beautiful necklace. Behind her, the artist depicted a few more birches, the beauty and grace of which echo the main character.
The mood of the picture is joyful, springtime, despite the fact that winter bound nature with its cold. It is clear that spring with its cheerful streams and singing of birds is just around the corner, the cold will soon end and the birches are covered with earrings and young fresh leaves.
Year of painting: 1904.
Painting dimensions: 141 x 83 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.