The Rite of Spring – a proposal for a painting

preliminary sketches for painting inspired by The Rite of Spring

The Concord Art Prize.

A few months ago I prepared a proposal for a really interesting art competition/bursary – The Concord Art Prize. Artists were invited to propose an artwork inspired by one from a list of ten pieces of music (I chose The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky). Shortlisted artists would be paid to produce their work. Definitely one to look out for next year.


In my proposal, I broke the composition into three sections. I was considering painting it as a triptych.
In the first section I tried to capture something of the first tentative signs of spring, signalled by that wonderful bassoon in the original music, suggesting a new beginning. The end of winter; a time of joy and restored hope. I found this quite poignant, because this was when we were finally emerging from lockdowns, looking forward to a return to normality. – the birth of a new hope for the future.
I chose to depict three “maidens”, dressed in contemporary summer dresses; with a bouncing stride emerging from over the horizon on the left of the painting. More “The Sound of Music” than pagan Russia. 

preparatory drawing for a painting - the three graces


The next section is about the pounding, primal rhythm; the overt sexuality that pervades most of the work. Dancing and cavorting; all passion, desire and curiosity. In my preliminary sketch I featured a statue of Pan, with one woman touching the statue, while another couple, totally self absorbed, are cavorting at the foot. Other figures would be added in the area around the statue. This sketch was just of the central characters. I wanted this section to look busy, chaotic and full of energy.

statue of pan - a preparatory drawing for a painting


I wanted to end with a growing sense of menace. This time the pounding rhythm shouts danger. This final section has a woman in obvious distress, trying to avoid the clutches of sweaty, pot-bellied older men. I envisaged the men in grubby t-shirts and Y-fronts. There is nothing playful or innocent about this scene. I want there to be a stark contrast, a jarring change of tone, with the frivolities of the middle section. There would be a small but menacing crowd gathering behind.

preparatory drawing for the finale to rite of spring painting


It’s been two months since I learned that my proposal wasn’t accepted. With hindsight I should have developed my ideas further to have a better chance of convincing the judges. My initial reaction was to shelve everything. A large painting like this would take a considerable investment in time and money. Aside from the considerable cost of materials, there is the difficult task of finding models and arranging sittings; and that’s before you even put brush to canvas.
However, it is a project I would love to work on and develop further, The sketches above are just initial ideas. Once you start working through different poses with models, you get new ideas. That is why I enjoy the collaborative process with models, and see it as an important step in the creative process.