Peder Mönsted is a great example of how art teaches us to appreciate our everyday surroundings. His calm, peaceful forest scenes are bursting with intricate details, dedicating equal attention to every leaf and twig.
The featured painting is “Forest landscape with silent creek” (Skogslandskap med stilla å) from 1911. We see a shallow creek so still that the river bed shines through without disturbance and the bright greens in the background are reflected under the shadows of the overhanging trees. There seems to be not the slightest breeze, the scene so calm as if nothing could disturb it.
A careful observer will spot the pair of does between the trees. However, the rare sight of a white doe (by the way not an albino but a white breed found in Southern Sweden) is not the main focus of the painting. Instead, the stage is given to a field of large butterbur leaves! Filling the entire foreground, Mönsted depicts the weed carefully. Sunlight shimmers through the leaves and casts shadows on their neighbours. He dedicates attention to each leaf as an individual. He shows them in all stages of their life, from young, green sprouts to old, brown and crumpled. Mönsted paints weeds as if he painted a family portrait.
The painting shows us a scene that we may encounter on any walk through the nearest forest, yet it completely shifts our focus. We are taught to appreciate and see the beauty and uniqueness in details that we would not normally pay attention to, weeds that we would usually ignore or even regard as a nuisance.
We can take this attitude from the painting into our daily life. Pay attention to the weeds in your garden – do you find beauty in them? Do you find appreciation in yourself for the random collection of personal items on your desk? Can you see the unique individuals in the crowd of commuters around you on the way to work?
Peder Mönsted, “Skogslandskap med stilla å” (1911), found at Åmells gallery in Stockholm or on their website.