John Marin’s late works, like Spring No. 1, have a lyrical, joyful verve. Although he continued to be inspired by the ocean and mountains, Marin modified the dynamism of his earlier works in favor of a lighter palette and a gentler style. Duncan Phillips was drawn to these late evocations of nature, believing that they were “as abstract and as universal as the music of Bach.”
In Spring No. 1, painted shortly before his death, Marin fused line and color in a lyrical composition painted in delicate hues interspersed with pronounced areas of white. The small, energetic slashes and daubs of oil dispersed across the canvas both define the shape of the mountains and project a sense of nature's energy. The internal frame, which is seen throughout Marin's oeuvre, is conspicuously absent here; instead, he extended his lines across the picture plane and even beyond the edge of the canvas. Like a musical concerto, the colors in Spring No. 1 move from opaque to transparent, from muted reds to bare canvas. With his reductive style, rhythmic brushwork, calligraphic line, and expressive use of color to create both space and light, Marin’s art is the bridge between the American modernists and the Abstract Expressionists.