To break up the winter doldrums, I present to you a painting filled with the joys of spring: Hungarian artist Pál Szinyei-Merse's "Lark," painted in 1882.

1. "Lark" is similar in theme to Pál Szinyei-Merse's "Picnic in May." Szinyei-Merse painted "Lark" 9 years later, but was still able to paint the landscape from memory. For the nude, however, he called in a model.

2. Szinyei-Merse was a bit ahead of his time, at least in Hungary, and so he appreciated the need for art education. As a member of Parliament, he supported the modernization of art education. He also served as the director of the Academy of Fine Arts of Budapest and helped found Hungary's first society of modern art, the Circle of Hungarian Impressionists and Naturalists, in 1908.

3. Growing up on land in the countryside, Szinyei-Merse was able to spend much of his time outdoors. Years later, he wrote in a letter to his father, "I have decided to follow one teacher only as my guiding star: Nature."

4. After widely experiencing rejection of "Picnic in May," Szinyei-Merse's painting dwindled. He retired to his family estate and lived as a gentleman-farmer for 20 years, until 1896, when his works became more appreciated. He then won several gold and silver medals, and the Uffizi Gallery of Florence asked for his self-portrait.

5. Although he lived his life as a Hungarian, Szinyei-Merse was declared a Slovak after his death. In 1920, just four months after he died, the Trianon Treaty between the Allies and Hungary was signed. Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and inhabitants, including Szinyei-Merse's hometown, to the newly formed Czechoslovakia.

A larger version is available here.

"˜Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.