Above: Joanne Short Fine Art Open Edition Art Print. 'Wild Flowers and Wedding Lilies, Sophie's View'.
Flowers have been a popular subject for paintings throughout history. They are beautiful and can be used to create stunning compositions. This blog post will explore the history of floral paintings in western art, from the early masters to the modern-day artists who continue to be inspired by them. We'll take a look at some lesser-known still-life paintings, as well as some of the most famous flower paintings in history. So grab a cup of tea and get comfortable - it's time to appreciate some beautiful flowers through art!
Floral Still Lifes
Artist Joanne Short says:
"One of my favourite genres of painting has to be a still life, especially a still life with a vase of flowers. I have been influenced over the years by many flower painters and as a result, love painting flowers myself.A few years ago we even had an allotment where we grew a variety of flowers for cutting and painting. Our own 'artists' flower garden' if you like."
Above: Artist Joanne Short pictured in 2003 on her Falmouth allotment collecting fresh flowers to paint.
For centuries, humans have expressed a wide range of emotions by exchanging flowers, from declarations of love to gestures of apology.
The History of Flower painting in Holland
Regardless of whether you have artistic abilities or not, it's impossible to ignore the emotional inspiration the natural beauty of flowers provides.
The presence of flowers in a room has been proven to improve air quality, lift your mood, and reduce stress levels significantly. Perhaps this is the inspiration for some of the large famous floral paintings from Holland in the early 17th century.
Above: 'Bouquet of Flowers in an Earthenware vase' (c.1610) Jan Breughel the Elder, available as an open Edition print.
In 1590 one of the first botanical gardens was created in Leiden, in the Netherlands. More people showed interest in flower paintings as foreign species became more common in the Netherlands. The early 17th century saw the Dutch Golden Age of flower painting, marked by painters including Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1621) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) and their ambitious, larger-than-life painted bouquets. The exotic flowers that were being shipped into the country at this time were so expensive that it was cheaper for people to acquire a painting of floral arrangements instead.
Above: 'Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase'(c.1610-1615), Jan Breughel the Elder, available as an open edition art print
Above: 'Bouquet of Flowers on a Ledge (1619), Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder. Available as an open edition art print
Jan Davidsz de Heem (Dutch, 1606-1684) and Jan van Huysum (Dutch, 1682-1749)
The artists who followed this previous, formal style of painting became more naturalistic themselves, including the work of Jan Davidsz de Heem and Jan van Huysum. Instead of depicting each flower side by side with no overlapping, these artists started interweaving them and introducing layers in their paintings.
Above: Jan van Huysum Fine Art Open Edition Art Print. 'Still Life with Flowers' availabel as an open edition print
In the later eighteenth century Jan van Huysum, often called the last of the great still-life of flower painters, started painting on lighter backgrounds rather than darker ones common in his earlier work. This brought a sense of lightness to his palette.
Jan Davidsz de Heem was popular and successful during his lifetime, studying in Leiden for four years in the late 1620s. His paintings were so highly sought-after that they could sell for more than a Rembrandt at the time. De Heem's palette was more subdued than those of his predecessors, and he too favoured asymmetrical compositions. Here, it seems as though all the flowers are struggling to escape the confines of the vase.
Maria van Oostervijck (Dutch, 1630-1693)
Maria van Oosterwijck, was a Dutch painter during the Golden Age who specialized in still lifes. She is considered to be one of the best painters of this genre and her paintings are held in many royal collections throughout Europe.
Maria was known for her still lifes of flowers and fruits, spending great detail to paint them by hand with precision. At that time, perishable flowers were relatively rare and expensive which is why Maria worked like many other painters of that era: first drawing a sketch before moving on to watercolour and then oil on canvas.
Above: 'Still Life of Roses, Carnations, Marigolds and other flowers with a Sunflower' (1680) Maria van Oosterwijck. Available as an open edition art print.
Jan Brueghel the Younger (Flemish, 1601 - 1678)
Jan Brueghel the Younger mainly repeated his father's painting style since that is what most people wanted at the time. Jan Elder was a very popular painter at that time, so to meet customer demand, Jan younger, his son, would sometimes copy his father's paintings and sell them as if they were done by Jan Elder. Because of this market trend, it can be tough to tell their styles apart though pictures done by Jan Younger are usually brighter in colour and not drawn quite as precisely.
Above: 'Still Life with Flowers in a Glass' (c. 1625-1630), Jan van Brueghel the Younger
Famous Flower Paintings
Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890)
Some artists' famous floral paintings are better known than others. Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh painted sunflowers and irises in vases in his own style of rustic charm. The famous paintings in this flower series are well-known worldwide.
Although Van Gogh is famous for his sunflowers he also painted a small series of paintings of roses in 1890.
The painting below of mixed flowers in a vase is also less famous.
Van Gogh also painted several other stunning vases of flowers including 'Red Poppies and Daisies', 'Roses and Anenomes', 'Gladioli and Carnations', 'Vase with Poppies, Cornflowers, Peonies and Chrysanthemums' and many more.
Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)
French artist Claude Monet painted some beautiful canvases of water lilies in his garden at Giverny.
In 1880 Monet painted this beautiful still-life of jerusalem artichokes which is very unusual.
Famous Artists' Less well-known Floral Paintings
Some of the most beautiful still-life paintings of flowers are actually by famous artists who are less known for this style and genre of work.
Henri Rousseau (French, 1844-1910)
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was a primitive, post-impressionist artist who painted in a 'naïve art style'. His best-known paintings contain images of dense, tropical forests. Although he had never seen a jungle himself, he was inspired by the gardens and zoo near his home in Paris. However, in 1909, he painted this very accomplished still-life.
Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883)
Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903)
Post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin is famous for his paintings of Tahiti. However throughout his painting life he produced paintings of flowers which demonstrate his love of the natural beauty of nature.
Above: 'Flowers and a Bowl of Fruit on a Table' (1894), Paul Gauguin. Available as an open edition print
Above: 'Still Life with Flowers and Idol' (1892), Paul Gauguin
Two accomplished french painters from the early 20th century that have painted fantastic still-life paintings are Odilon Redon and Maxime Maufra.
Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916)
Bertrand-Jean Redon, who is better known as Odilon Redon, was born in Bordeaux, France. He was a symbolist painter and printmaker who turned to the genre of floral still-lifes around 1900 when he was 60 years old. By 1904, most of his time and efforts were devoted to creating flower compositions. It's likely that many of the specimens he gathered for his paintings came from his garden in Bièvres.
"I do not know of anything that has given me more pleasure than such an appreciation of simple flowers in their vase breathing air”
(quoted in Odilon Redon: Prince of Dreams, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1994, p. 294).
Above: 'Vase of Flowers (Pink Background) (c. 1906), Odilon Redon. Available as an open edition print
Above: 'Large Green Vase with Mixed Flowers' (1910-1912), Odilon Redon
Maxime Maufra (French, 1861-1918)
Impressionist painter Maxime Maufra from Nantes, France, exhibited his work in the Paris Salon in 1886. He settled in Brittany and became part of the 'Ponr Aven' group of artists after meeting Gauguin and Serusier. After painting mainly landscapes throughout his life, around the turn of the century he produced several very competent paintings of vases of flowers.
Above: 'Vase de Fleurs', Maxime Maufra
Still life prints available at The John Dyer Gallery
In his early life as a painter, Ted Dyer became well-known for his still life painting - he painted flowers in vases alongside various fruit in bowls. These paintings reflect the influence of the artistic style of the dutch masters on Dyer's work.
More recently Ted Dyer has painted this delightful series of vases of flowers which we have released as a collection of open-edition prints.
Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Daffodils and Tulips in a Vase, Still Life'
John Dyer is well known mainly for his fun landscape paintings of Cornwall. However he has done several still life paintings himself.
John Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Still Life Cornish Art Print. 'Blue Irises on a Cornish Table'
Joanne Short features flowers growing in the wild, in the majority of her beautiful paintings. Some of the prints we have available show the use of cut flowers in a vase in the foreground with the landscape behind.
Above: Signed Limited Edition Cornwall Art Print by Cornish Artist Joanne Short. 'Glorious View, St Ives'
Throughout history, artists have been drawn to painting flowers. The paintings featured in this blog range from the precise and detailed still-life paintings from the Dutch Golden Age to the impressionist works of Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin and the symbolist paintings of Odilon Redon and Maxime Maufra, leading right up to date with our gallery artists Ted Dyer, John Dyer and Joanne Short. What all of these artists have in common is their mastery of capturing the beauty and simplicity of flowers in a vase.