Spring Frost by Elioth Gruner – Analysis of a Hidden Gem

Spring Frost by Elioth Gruner

When you think about beautiful, captivating paintings, a handful of names come into mind; Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Sunrise by Claude Monet, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, etc. You would not think of this painting, Spring Frost by Australian artist Elioth Gruner.

Let’s take a closer look at this masterpiece better and see what makes it so beautiful and captivating. 

The Painting

Spring Frost was painted in 1919 and is the artist’s most famous work. This piece was awarded the coveted Wynne Prize; one look at the painting is enough to know why.

The medium of the painting is oil on canvas and is currently at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. The painting is 131.0 cm × 178.7 cm (51.6 in × 70.4 in), making it a very large painting. 

The reason why this painting is so large is that the artist wanted to create an immersion. Since it is a landscape painting, it is necessary that the viewers feel that they are inside the painting. A small canvas would miss the mark. 

The Scene of the Painting

The painting depicts a simple, rural scene. It shows a farm with some cows in the foreground and a rancher in the background. Its early morning effect is what makes the painting stand out. 

The scene painted here is a very calm and quiet one. There is not much going on around and it makes sense. The name of the painting is “Spring Frost” and you can get a sense of that with how the light reflects on the ground and other surfaces. 

The Painting’s Speciality

While the scene is simple, there is something about this painting that makes it look different. In other words, how does the artist add the “dethawing” effect of the frost that comes with winter and goes with spring?

This painting’s “special sauce” is the light rays that are coming from the center of the canvas. The sun is behind the tree which sits at the center of the canvas. The artist has painted the sun rays coming from the back of the tree. 

Spring Frost by Elioth Gruner
Spring Frost Painting by Elioth Gruner. Public Domain. Via Wikimedia Commons

This is what we call the “Tyndal effect” in nature. Notice how every subject of the painting; all the cows and the rancher has that outwards glow of the golden sunrise?

The scene almost has the effect of a thin film of water over the animals and the person in the painting. The dews on the surface are making the sun’s rays refract and hence you get the effect of an early morning defrost. 

Not just that, but the painter has also added more lighting effects on the ground, playing with the shadows of the animals along with adding a bit of fog in the background to enhance the early morning effect. 

The Effect on Viewers

By using the lights in such a way, the painting has an effect on the viewers. It makes us feel the painting. Imagine yourself standing in the middle of the farm.

You can feel the cool grass blade covered with dew, breathe in the fresh cool air, and take in the smell of the trees and flowers. You can even hear the birds singing and the cows going around, eating, and occasionally staring at you. 

This painting has a relaxing, comforting effect on the viewers. It makes you want to just keep looking at the canvas and feel the quietness and comfort that you would get if you were in this place. This is how the painting succeeds in becoming captivating. 

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