Lesser Shrew And Common Shrew (Archibald Thorburn, 1903, watercolor on paper)

Lesser Shrew And Common Shrew (Archibald Thorburn, 1903, watercolor on paper)

One of my favorite aspects of art is the foreground—the tiny and insignificant items pictured there frequently highlight the larger themes of the work (while wedding the larger figures to a microcosm of tiny dramas).   This is true unless the painting is all about the foreground, as is frequently the case with the works of Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) a Scottish painter who specialized in watercolor paintings of wildlife—particularly birds and small creatures.  Here is a wonderful watercolor painting of two small shrews encountering a potentially dangerous larger shrew within a tiny landscape.  The pebbles and grass blades become forests and boulders for the tiny insectivores as they size up this strange encounter.  Of course there is a foreground in this tiny painting as well:  a common wildflower grows into the composition from the right corner.  The tiny salmon petals of the little flower lend color and drama to the scene (while reminding the viewer to always look for beauty, even in the world underfoot).