Spring is in the air!

Spring is in the air!
Explore some spring content from the Library's collections
9 September 2014

Spring – “to leap, burst forth, fly up, spread, grow”. A name that in temperate climes we have come to apply to the season that emerges with freshness and new life from dormant winter’s cold, as well as to water rising forth unexpectedly from beneath the ground. An inspiration for artists, composers and writers throughout the ages, a source of beauty for everyone, and on a more prosaic level, sustenance for us all.

Frank Hurley (1885-1962), Grey Holden station wagon with trailer in a field of yellow wildflowers, Western Australia,  between 1910 and 1962, nla.pic-an24027314

The seasons were personified by Gods in many mythologies with the Greek story of Hades and Persephone, just one of the many ways of explaining the decline and rebirth of each year. Representations of the seasons are sometimes included on early maps, such as Joan Bleau’s 1664 map Nova et accvratissima totivs terrarvm orbis tabvla. In this map the seasons appear as figures in carts drawn by birds and beasts at the bottom of the map.

The seasons in Joan Bleau's map

Joan Bleau (1596-1673) Nova et accvratissima totivs terrarvm orbis tabvla [cartographic material] / Auctore Ioanne Blaev  1664, nla.cat-vn587783

The seasons were also a popular inspiration for statuary in parks and gardens in Europe, and that tradition also spread to Australia, with Spring often personified as a young girl or woman.

Statue of Spring personified as a woman in a Sydney garden, New South Wales,  ca. 1920s, nla.pic-vn6264827

Possibly the most famous “spring theme” ballet, is Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, although rather than being a celebration it does have rather a dark undertone as the sacrificial victim dances herself to death. Perhaps less well-known is that the dramatic set and striking costumes for the acclaimed 1962 Royal Ballet performance of Rite of Spring were designed by Sidney Nolan.

Alex Poignant (1906-1986) Monica Mason as the Chosen Maiden in the ballet Rite of Spring, set and costume designed by Sidney Nolan, Covent Garden, England,  1962, nla.cat-vn4463950

The Australian choreographer and founder of the Lisner Ballet, later the Queensland Ballet, Charles Lisner, produced a 1960 performance of another ballet on this theme, Petipa-Glazunov’s The Seasons.

Grahame Garner, (b 1921) Wendy Tabke as Spring, Lynnette Sorrensen as Summer, Mary Heath as Winter, Jill Coleman as Autumn and Harold Collins as Bacchus in act two of The Seasons by Charles Lisner, Lisner Ballet, Academy Theatre, Brisbane,  1960, nla.pic-vn4900353

Naturally, the voice of spring has inspired many composers to write melodies on this topic. Everything from songs to waltzes, tone poems, dances, “reveries”, instrumental solos and much more.

Ernest T. Clarke, Spirit of Spring : a joy waltz,  1920-1929, nla.mus-vn182868

If you’re feeling your fingers itching to try a spring tune, or your vocal chords ache to warble a song, why not try the Library’s music app Forte.

In dry Australia, a spring of fresh water is a welcome oasis in what can often be a parched landscape. Even the tiniest trickle emerging from the earth can be the difference between life and death for those who know the land and where to find these real treasures.

Roy Fry, Francis Birtles in rock hole spring, South Australia, January,  1921, nla.pic-vn6419952

Of course what we most often associate with spring are the plants. Wildflowers galore even in the Australian desert, as captured in this image by Frank Hurley:

Frank Hurley (1885-1962) Yellow, white and purple wildflowers, Western Australia, between 1910 and 1962), nla.pic-an421186

While in the more manicured gardens of suburbia, there is fierce competition to achieve that perfect bloom at the local flower show.

Five women at the Methodist Spring Show, New South Wales,  25 September 1931, nla.pic-vn6300768

We also tend to forget in the warmer parts of Australia, that spring is the time of the thaw in the mountains. Melting snow in the Australian Alps was captured evocatively by the renowned nature photographer Peter Dombrovskis, and forms part of the archive of more than 3,500 of his wonderful photographs held by the Library and currently being digitised.

Peter Dombrovskis (1945-1996) Spring thaw, Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales,  1986, nla.pic-vn5976350

But perhaps my favourite image of spring from the Library’s collection is not one showing the beauty of the natural world, or a literary inspiration. Rather it is a photograph of a young boy at the window of his terrace house in Paddington, newly woken from his slumbers and enjoying the warm, gentle touch of spring sunshine with absolute bliss.

Ern McQuillan, (b 1926) A young boy enjoying the spring sunshine, Paddington,  1955, nla.pic-vn3308196

Join the National Library and children's authors Tania McCartney, Stephanie Owen Reader and Pauline Deeves at Floriade this year under the CBR Marquee from 10 am–4 pm on Wednesday 1 October, for Spring Storytime and other activities. No bookings required.  

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