Yellow Birch beside a Frozen River (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Yellow Birch beside a Frozen River (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

18 x 24 in | 46 x 61 cm

The Yellow Birch is an uncommon subject for a painter. White Birches are usually favored because their trunks add sparkle to a summer scene or reflect the cool colors of winter. In contrast, the Yellow Birch is a serious forest tree. They thrive in the deep woods because they are the most shade tolerant of the birches. To most of us an old Yellow Birch doesn’t look like a birch because the bark is not thin and papery. Instead, it breaks up into plates with ragged edges. In fact few people recognize them as birches unless they look at young branches which show the characteristic papery shredding bark. So what is the attraction for an artist? The plates of old birch bark are shiny so they reflect surrounding colors like jewels.

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From the standpoint of composition the dramatic shadow of the small tree on the trunk draws the viewer’s attention to its massiveness. It was fortunate that I came upon this scene at a time when the shadow was in the right place. Also, the composition has some other plants that show color in the winter. The Maple leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) in the foreground has huge ochre buds that are fuzzy to the touch. And on the opposite river bank the brilliant red-violet stems of the Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) poke through the snow. Add the shadows on the snow that flow down the bank of the frozen river and up the other side and you have a lot to look at.

This Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) lives in Quebec where it is celebrated as the provincial tree. Yellow Birches can be seen in Northeastern United states and the Canadian bordering Provinces.

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