Interrogating Flowers

posted in: Painting | 3

By the 1600s painting flowers was a common custom for artists from China to Holland. Our exploration begins here with carefully observed flowers represented not only as a theme in painting but also as a motif on china, silver, tapestries and clothing. Their arrangement on table tops, silk, canvas, and porcelain was carefully choreographed (example 1). Contemporary artists continue reinvent the subject.

Example 1. Dutch tablecloth, 1660.

By the 17th century the European standard of the posed bouquet had swept through artist’s studios (example 2),

Example 2.   French, Anne Valleyer Coster, 18th century oil.

Posed flowers in water-glasses, vases, rustic pots, across counters, desktops, and cropped in their gardens continued to thrive whether mimicked or abstracted in varieties of  media.  Across the 20th century with super luminaries like Richard Diebenkorn (example 3) or contemporary watercolorists like Joseph Rafael (example 4) or contemporary oil painters like Ben Aronson (example 5) who follows in  the new traditions of Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud.

Example 3. Richard Diebenkorn, Poppies.

Example 4. Joseph Raffael, watercolor, Après Le Pluie.

Example 5. Ben Aronson, oil on panel, Tulips in Bloom.

Even the most serious and celebrated figure painter, Lucien Freud, found painting  his garden irresistible (example 6). His thickly textured paint found the tactile attraction of earth and garden a complementary subject.  Here was an artist who likes to drill down into his subject whether figure for flora.

Example 6. Lucien Freud, painter’s garden.

As you have seen, the artists tailored floral subjects to their medium and methods. Contemporary photographers too, have found new forms for reconstituting flowers and layering them into their imagery (see example 7, Emilie Belin).

Example 7. Emilie Belin, photograph, Christmas Roses.

Earlier this year I blogged on my explorations with flowers painted in oil over enameled, laminated aluminum (April 18, 2016 blog post).  I featured example 8.

Example 8. Dunlop, Flora, Sunlight and Shadows.

Casually strolling with my family in Berlin ( Rebecca, Max, Natalie, and granddaughter, Frida) I found new floral opportunities. I tried reversing the focus. I pulled the background into focus and blurred the foreground subject. The resulting painting is example 9.

Example 9. Dunlop, horizontal garden.

Wandering along local roads I often find attractive moments with flowers.  Example 10 silhouettes a rose against the sky in an effort monumentalize the subject.  Example 12 resulted from photographing under the glass roofed NY Botanical Garden. I excised the evidence of windows in my pursuit of a dense display of leafy and petal-like  gestures.  First, my Photoshopped and multilayered photograph which served as my point of departure (example 11) then, the subsequent painting (example 12).

Example 10.  Sky born Rose.

Example 11.  Photograph as altered and multi-layered.

Example 12.  The painting, “Greenhouse Effect.”

I invite you to join me in upcoming events:

“The Psychology of Art and Design” is a lecture I will be giving at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. on Sunday, October 16th at 4:30 PM.   How do we make, view and market art?  What are the subliminal forces that direct our intentions determine our responses?

In November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  from Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156. These three different workshops are described on this website under classes and workshops.

I have an exhibition of my work at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct at 342 Main Street.  Friday through Sunday 11-5 PM. 860 435-1029.


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