Here we find a single female figure leaning over whilst on all fours in an open garden or forest. She collects some wild flowers and places them into a basket and whilst the activity may not sound particularly exciting, it is the way in which the artist captures this scene that makes this painting so memorable. It oozes feminine charm, from the delicate clothing of the female model to her delicate skin and slim frame, through to the traditional English feel of the landscape in which she collects the flowers. The title itself, of Spring Spreads One Green Lap of Flowers, refers to the content involved and also mentions the season of Spring, which is the point at which in the UK where many of these flowers appear for the first time each year. It is therefore the sign of the end of the cold winter, and the return of life to the environment within regions of a similar climate. Spring itself has also inspired a number of other artists in Northern and Central Europe over the years, across a variety of different movements and artistic styles. Who can forget the Seasons series by Alphonse Mucha, for example, with Spring being one of the best iterations within that.
The artist would practice his portraiture within sketchbooks for most of his career, generally focusing on portraits of his models that would then later appear within full scale paintings, such as Spring Spreads One Green Lap of Flowers as found here. He would sometimes try out different angles of posture but the facial expressions tended to remain constant throughout, where these young women would tend to be lost in thought. In cases where the paintings would feature multiple portraits, then he would sketch each one individually and then put all his conclusions together in layered oils for the final work. Waterhouse understood the importance of preparation when it came to the challenging genre of portraiture and he would have noticed how the great old masters would do the same throughout their own careers, despite being extraordinarly gifted individuals themselves.
Waterhouse was just one of a number of exceptional British artists to appear in the 19th and early 20th century, with certain styles being common throughout many of their careers. Some of the artist's earlier work was almost Neo-Classical in influence but he soon move on from this to take a more British approach in later artworks as he switched to the influences of domestic poetry. Another artist who stuck to the Neo-Classical approach throughout was John William Godward, someone who followed a similar path in terms of academic training and who adored the challenges of portraiture, but did not limit himself to the formal poses, just as Waterhouse himself had avoided. Some of Godward's most notable pieces included The Tambourine Girl, The Betrothed, Girl in Yellow Drapery and Waiting for an Answer although his oeuvre was extensive and there are many more exciting items to find within it for those who take the time to look deeper into his career.