Aleksei Savrasov loved spring best of all the seasons and dedicated the majority of his works to it. He often painted its tentative arrival in Russia’s northern territories, rooks flying in from the south signifying its beginning.
The artist named his favourite and most famous painting The rooks have returned (1871, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). Shown at the inaugural exhibition of the Itinerant Association in 1871, this picture was a revelation to Savrasov’s contemporaries, for whom it expressed the very soul of Russian nature. In subsequent years, Savrasov painted variations and repetitions of this subject.
In The arrival of spring the artist again reproduces on canvas melting snow, the first thaw and the soft damp soil on the road. Thin birch branches reach towards a sky in which the harsh winter clouds are gone and clear blue sky is appearing. A Russian landscape without wide spaces is unthinkable; the artist conveys the limitlessness of this space, dissolving in a light spring haze. In the foreground are typical rural buildings, melting snow sliding off their roofs, and a little beyond, the slender bell tower of a village church, without which one cannot imagine Russian life or its landscape.
There are works by Savrasov similar in character and motive to the present work in both museums and private collections: Early spring, Early spring. The expanse, Early spring. The thaw, The thawed ground. Early March and many others. They were all painted in the 1880-1890s.
The pair to The arrival of spring appears to be the landscape Summer. The works are united by Savrasov's distinctive delicacy, the soft harmonies of colour, and the masterful drawing of the underlying image.
We are grateful to Dr Galina Churak of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow for providing this note.