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The Cover
May 22/29, 2002

Under the Greenwood

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(20):2619. doi:10.1001/jama.287.20.2619

The light flits across the canvas like a firefly at twilight. It picks out a leaf here, a branch there, at the center a hoary tree trunk, beside it a slender, arching trunk. Beneath the trees are sheep in sun and shadow (even the proverbial black sheep), behind the fence a horse (or mule), in the right foreground wild mushrooms, in the right background the tiny figure of a sower. Almost completely hidden in shadow, a small boy sits whittling beside a winding path. He is Pan, perhaps, boy-god of the forest, guardian of sheep, carving himself a flute. This is the idyllic scene, the American Eden, as only George Inness (1825-1894) could express it. So delicate is his touch that the color appears to float just above the surface of the canvas, a filigree of lights and darks. It is a fecund nature, but one not untouched by death and decay: a rotting tree trunk partially bars the viewer's way into the painting. Yet even it is fecund: it is the compost that will nourish future springs.

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