In Spring 2019, on a visit to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., we encountered the paintings of Charline von Heyl and were immediately drawn to the multi-layered musicality of her paintings, her whimsical imagination intertwined with literary and historical references. Her work was fresh and novel. We were riveted and hooked, returning the very next day to explore and delve deeper. That summer, on a visit to the Uffizi in Florence we experienced a similar epiphany with Botticelli’s Primavera. Peering through the crowd, angling for a better view, nothing could have prepared us for the transcendent glow and enigma of this iconic painting.
Spanning the centuries, there is a sense of lyricism and innovation shared by these two painters. In Fall 2019, we reached out to von Heyl and heard from the artist herself. She expressed an appreciation of music and invited us to visit her studio in Marfa, Texas. In late December, the three of us sat down for an afternoon of lively conversation centered around the enduring relevance of Botticelli’s painting. The river of thoughts flowed naturally. From philosophical ruminations on the diseased state of the environment and global warming to deep political divides and social injustices and the universality of our shared human narratives, the world felt fractured and on the brink. We found hope in creating a spiritual bridge between art and music.
The discussion continued with the idea of commissioning new cello works inspired by artwork. Like webs of roots and vines in a forest, the music would take us on a journey between paintings, from one figure to the next, from one time and place to another. We asked von Heyl if she would ever consider reimagining the Botticelli painting for the 21st Century. She paused and glanced across the room at a large canvas that took up the length of a whole wall in her studio. And to our absolute delight, she replied, “I think I’m finished with this one. I’ll begin work on your painting.”
Less than two months later, days before the pandemic lockdown, von Heyl had completed her Primavera 2020.
We invite you to join us on a journey of rebirth and renewal. Please enjoy the blossoms of The Primavera Project.
— Jeffrianne Young & Matt Haimovitz