Thawing Brook (Winter Shadows)
26 1/8 x 29 3/16 in.
Willard Leroy Metcalf,
(July 1, 1858–March 9, 1925)
Medium and Support:
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
Metcalf's biographer, Elizabeth de Veer, refers to "Thawing Brook" as "an unusally fine Metcalf" and certainly it is that. A bank of dark firs recede diagonally across the picture plane casting shadows of various lengths across a sloping field. In the distance are hills and a lovely soft blue sky. The play of light and shadows across the snow and the melting brook is nothing short of masterful.
Willard Metcalf painted "Thawing Brook" in Cornish, New Hampshire, site of an art colony he frequented after 1909. Although colony life in Cornish was at its height during the summer, Metcalf often preferred to visit during the quieter winter months. The snow-covered landscapes he produced emphasize the season’s poetic beauty over its harshness. Raised by ardent spiritualists and as an admirer of such transcendentalist authors as Emerson and Thoreau, Metcalf devoted particular attention to the snow-bound stream in the painting’s foreground—a symbol of nature’s enduring life force despite the icy rigors of winter.