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When viewing Elm Forest in Spring by Edvard Munch, one immediately recalls some of the recent landscape paintings by British artist, David Hockney. This underlines just how far ahead of his time that the Norwegian Expressionist was.
The painting is dated at 1923 and Munch spent this year producing a good number of paintings within this forest. He would find different angles from which to depict the beauty of this region and by this stage of his career his brushwork had developed into a much more abstract and relaxed style. He oozed confidence at this stage, being able to work on whatever projects or content that he wished. He was expressing himself in a way that he would not concern himself too much with every last detail, or worrying about whether others viewed the painting as complete, by their own traditional standards. He was fully connected with his emotions but also appears to have been more positive in his mind during this period, perhaps inspired by the wonder of nature which has pleased and inspired so many artists over the years.
In terms of the similarity to 20th century artist David Hockney, the way in which the trees and other plants are created bear the most obvious comparison. The environments used by both would also be Northern Europe, making the palettes inevitably similar too. Some of Hockney's related artworks include Cart Track and Pylon East Yorkshire, A Gap in the Hedgerow and Looking Towards Huggate Late Summer. He was an artist who lived and worked in the UK and US, with his work in North America being draped in much brighter colours which added an exciting dimension to his career, but are quite different to the piece from Munch described here. Munch's work was highly influential right across European art, with a number of Expressionist artists seeing him as the main figure within this group and many more who worked in alternative styles still taking elements of his career into their own.
The body of work produced by Munch within this forest offers a clear difference in style, with more relaxed brushwork. These paintings are therefore important within his oeuvre and also provide a more positive alternative to some of his deeper, darker images which labelled him as an Expressionist but also as someone who was struggling with mental health issues. He could actually be happy and positive in the right environment and we find that here with artworks such as Elm Forest in Spring. It also draws attention to the natural beauty of the North European landscape which is fed by the rain and moderate climate which is so often derided.