Ruth Tulving describes how her love of the poems of Marie Under led to a series of large acrylic paintings:
At one point in my early career as a painter I became an enthusiastic reader of poetry by the well-known Estonian poetess, Marie Under. I found her way of seeing the world highly stimulating, and admired the way her mind worked. Her poetry is like a painting in itself. I was tempted to paint some of her poems the way I saw them, to try to translate the emotion of words into a similar statement of color composition.
I do not know if the readers of Under’s poetry have ever fully noticed how truly colorful it is. How in each single poem one can find countless variations of color, nuances of tone beside immense chords of full color blasts, that right away are tempered by half tones. There is a feeling that the colors are directly felt, not just seen and hinted at.
As I started to prepare my work, it came as a big surprise to me to discover this overabundance of color and a cultivated “painterliness” in Marie Under’s work.Being inspired by that I methodically analyzed her seven first poems in her Collected Works (as published in Stockholm, 1958, by Vaba Eesti Publisher).
There were in total 108 lines that I examined. In these lines there were directly named 31 colors like red, pink, blue, turquoise; in addition to these colors in the seven poems as well as in other verses by her, certain adjectives were used next to the color, that give the mentioned color right away a different shading, like flashing, glittering, gleaming, beaming, sparkling, kindling, dimming, darkening; then bright, hazy, golden, murky. In addition to these descriptions, Marie Under uses certain nouns that have a fixed color connotation, as in blood, snow, fire, sky, sea, milk, earth, and so on and so on…
For a painter this type of poetry was truly inspiring: in addition to the subject matter and rhythm of the words, also this rich and varying play of color!
The task left to me was to find a compositional solution that would be independent and not an illustration.