There is nothing better after a stretch of cold weather than filling a space with flowers— nature’s most compelling decoration. Nature has long been a subject matter revisited time and again by history’s greatest artists, past and present, providing an indisputable array of beauty with which all walks of life can associate. And flowers, in particular, are that mysterious living enigma, a burst of color, fragrance and joy that uplifts all who cross their path. Artwork of flowers seems to present a brilliant cross-contouring of nature’s most desirable display and the expressions of some of the world’s most adept visual creators. When an artist is in their element, the works of flowers navigate an almost otherworldly arena, creating a near living new entity that connects immediately to that powerful force within nature itself, and wielding the ability to weave color, joy and vitality into the lives that it touches.
Piet Mondrian is so overwhelmingly known for his infamous primary color rectangle paintings, it is hard to believe that he painted anything different— though his prolific genius is readily apparent when perusing his paintings of flowers. This Chrysanthemum is so delicate and strong it inspires a meditative quiet, his effortless brushstrokes calling forth a real spirit of nature.
Donald Sultan – Red & Black Poppies II, Black Poppies, Red & Black Poppies I, Red Poppies I, SIGNED silkscreens 2007
With his large silhouette shapes and rich color choices, Donald Sultan is able to conjure the dreamy fever surrounding the essence of the poppy. This set of four silkscreen prints is furthermore printed with luxurious thick ink on bright fine matte paperboard, lending his Poppies series a tactile quality that could silently sway any onlooker, much like the mystery from which this flower gains its reputation. And in Italian Poppies, also a signed silkscreen, Ed Baynard perhaps quotes this same indescribable allure.
Ed Baynard – Italian Poppies, SIGNED silkscreen 1996
Picasso’s usual simplified epiphanies are what draw us in again and again, this Mourlot stone lithograph from 1950 De Memoire D'Homme IX being somehow rich with feeling and playful with boldness at the same time. He manages to communicate the many layers of beauty hiding within a flower while confidently inscribing his own marks, in the masterful way that only Picasso can— this work seems to carry within it the complete essence of spring.
Pablo Picasso – De Memoire D'Homme IX, Mourlot stone lithograph 1950
"When an artist is in their element, the works of flowers navigate an almost otherworldly arena, creating a near living new entity that connects immediately to that powerful force within nature itself..."
Marc Chagall – Bouquet Pour Fernand, Mourlot stone lithograph 1972 Marco Del Re – Vase II Bleu, stone lithograph 2008
In a celebration of shape, where floral forms are distilled into two-dimensional pattern, artists Chagall and Marco Del Re fill the flat plane of design with shimmering nuance. In Bouquet Pour Fernand, Chagall’s characteristic painterly sensitivities shine through, giving the black ink respectable command. And in Del Re’s Vase II Bleu the graceful shapes take on a life of their own, seeming voluminous and full of motion.
Jan Frans van Dael – Musee du Louvre, offset lithograph Francois De Poilly – Floral Bouquet, etching
Jan Frans van Dael and Francois De Poilly show us the more lush emotional character that flowers endlessly inhabit, opening the doorways to pungent daydreams.
Musee du Louvre
has a mystifying amount of atmosphere achieved with rich colors in such dramatic dark lighting, and
has the enchanting weightless effect of a moment stilled in time.
Unknown Artist – Helenium Indicum Maximum, etching 1975 Charles Belle – Ranunculus Flowers, offset lithograph 1993
There is a distinct measure of sunlight that can be achieved simply through the use of the color yellow, the sunflower of which is nature’s best representation. This botanical etching Helenium Indicum Maximum by an unknown artist in nearly emitting light with its beautiful printing, and Ranunculus Flowers by Charles Belle is another breathtaking beauty, glowing quietly from within its dark background.
Tom Wesselmann – Tulips in a Vase, offset lithograph 1985 Robert Mapplethorpe – Roses (1988), offset lithograph
And tulips, roses and lilies, oh my! Perhaps a fair description of the force held within a flower is the craze sparked by the tulip in the Dutch Republic in 1637, known as Tulip Mania— where the prices for a single bulb skyrocketed to ten times a skilled craftsman’s yearly salary, and then dramatically collapsed. What magic must be held within such an item may never be measurable, though artwork seems to translate these mysteries fluently. Wesselmann’s Tulips in a Vase aren’t putting up many arguments otherwise. Roses (1988) reveals the absolute perfection of the rose in true Mapplethorpe fashion, a flower with a formidable history, and perhaps the most difficult one to display without pretense— something he seems to be able to do with more eloquence than most. And Alex Katz's Day Lilies inspire a sun-drenched delirium, his bright colors and lyrical composition encouraging this graceful flower's personality to really shine.
Alex Katz – Day Lilies, silkscreen 1992
Francois Herincq – Wigandia urens (H.B.K.), stone lithograph 1857 and Prunus Chinensis (Blume), Var a fleurs blanches doubles, stone lithograph 1856