A Lmited Edition Print
by Robert Bateman
Image Size: 17" x 11 3/8"
This is a painting of a male bluebird in a flowering dogwood tree. Dogwood flowers at about the same time that the bluebirds come back from the south to do their nesting. I think the flowering dogwood is one of the more beautiful trees of the early spring in eastern North America.
The flowers of the dogwood come out before or at just about the same time as its leaves do. At this time, you can look through the parts of the forest where flowering dogwood grows, and there probably are no leaves on the other trees. This is because the flowering dogwood grows in deciduous or hardwood forests where the trees lose their leaves in the autumn. There are several different layers in a forest. Dogwood grows as understory, or in the lower layers of the forest. In the early spring, when the sun starts to come back and the days lengthen and get warmer, the sun penetrates right into these lower layers of the forest. This is when the spring wildflowers are all coming out around the feet of the understory trees such as the flowering dogwood. Then the dogwood blossoms and then finally the overstory or canopy at the top of the forest closes in. After the canopy trees leaf out, there isn't much chance for the sunlight to penetrate down to the flowering dogwood as it is virtually never a big, full-sized tree that is anywhere near the canopy. In the early spring, you can look through the forest and see the blossoms of the dogwood like glowing beacons or candles, particularly when the sun shines through and they are backlit. This is the primary effect I wanted to achieve in this painting.
To me, this whole period of the calendar is one of the most exuberant, light-hearted and delightful, when the spring birds are coming back, arriving in their territory, starting their courtship, their singing and their mating. The flowers are coming into blossom and it hasn't yet gotten to the heavy lushness of summer. There is a lightness, an airiness and a delicacy to everything - a kind of gentleness. This is why I chose the bluebird for this painting of early spring. It doesn't sit there and sing away defiantly; it has a little, low kind of purring chirp. It is one of the most gentle of all the birds. -Robert Bateman
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