The Four Seasons: Spring (Dream of Dreams), Summer (Another Life, It’s True), Fall (Fallow Me), Winter (The Darkest You)
acrylic on plastex, each 96 x 48 inches
Rich in significance and visual appeal, the seasons have long held a special place as a subject in the history of art. From the calendar pages of the Limbourg Brothers and the organic portraits of Arcimboldo, to the sensual pastels of Rosalba Carriera and multi-media interpretations of David Hockney, the seasons have served across the centuries as an ideal vehicle for investigating the human condition.
Morgan Everhart decided to enter this longstanding conversation following a visit to the Frick Collection, where she encountered François Boucher’s Four Seasons (1755), which were likely painted as overdoors for a residence belonging to Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. Departing from convention, Boucher chose not to represent labors associated with different times of the year but rather focused on amorous pastimes. The works’ architectural origin appealed to Everhart, but what struck her the most was the romance of the scenes and their history. It sparked in Everhart the memory of an artistic project undertaken years earlier with someone with whom she had a relationship that ultimately ended.
The project in question was for a large vertical diptych that combined a linear composition with sound, both of which were inspired by the sights and music (particularly November by Sir) taken in by Everhart and her collaborator during long nocturnal drives in her native Texas. The lingering imprint of this experience finds itself translated into the format Everhart chose for the paintings that make up the Four Seasons, each of which relates in part to the artist’s perception of a particular time of year while driving at night. The paintings’ verticality also ties into the work of the famed Czech painter and graphic artist, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), who executed several paintings and poster series connecting alluring female figures set in natural settings to different times of the year.
Everhart’s nod to Mucha’s seductive Art Nouveau style reveals itself here in numerous ways, from the opulent color scheme that defines each composition to the presence of the pink spandrel in the upper left corner of Spring—an architectural detail favored by the Czech artist. The specter of Mucha’s fantasy women may be felt here as well. In Fall, for example, Everhart hints at the silhouette of the voluptuous figure from Mucha’s Fruit (1897), down to her form-fitting gown and the abundance of ripe grapes and pears that she proffers. While the colors may take a cue from Mucha’s oeuvre, their intensity and manipulation produces a vibrancy that is all Everhart.
In tackling the subject of the four seasons, Everhart was preoccupied with impermanence but also with the question of how changes in weather and light affect the way people connect with each other. Growing up in Texas, spring and fall were the most hospitable seasons and so the most conducive to socializing. Consistently sweltering summers and often harsh winters were instead periods of isolation, a phenomenon that finds expression in the greater containment of form charactering the compositions of those titles.
Painted on plastex less than a ¼ inch thick, Everhart’s Four Seasons are designed to espouse closely the wall that supports them—an enduring, twenty-first-century counterpart to the ephemeral posters popularized by Mucha. Triggered by a deeply personal memory, informed by the romance of the Rococo and Art Nouveau movements, Everhart’s Four Seasons encourage us to contemplate the cyclical passage of time, but also our perception of femininity. Indeed, far from overlooking these artistic styles often maligned for their “flowery,” “feminine” traits, Everhart openly flirts with them, and in so doing, invites us to think about current gender constructs and their limitations.