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Flowers Speak Volumes in Fine Art

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Impressionist flower vase painting

Impressionist flower vase painting

Tulip botanical print.

Dr. Lori, Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel.   Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, Lori Verderame on Google+or call (888) 431-1010.

By Lori Verderame

Let Your Collection Blossom

All things botanical have long inspired artists. Many famous artists were also avid gardeners and used their gardens as subject matter. Impressionist painter Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) and his colleague, Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1911) tended flower and herb gardens at their famous artist colony of Argenteuil, France in the early 1870s.

At Monet’s home in Giverny, the artist enlisted the aid of fellow gardeners to care for his famous water lily pond, which was the subject of his paintings from the early 1890s until his death in 1926. A few years ago, one of Monet’s famed water lily oil paintings, dated 1917, sold for $24.7 million.

Modern artists Imogen Cunningham and Georgia O’Keeffe also were gardeners who brought their love of flowers and plants into their mature works of art. Cunningham focused her modernist photographs on native flowers, leaves, branches, etc. Her Magnolia Blossom: Tower of Jewels held the record for the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction. Throughout her illustrious career, O’Keeffe painted desert flowers and other majestic blooms, including cactus flowers, poppies, jack-in-the-pulips and various types of lilies.

As subject matter in art and antiques, different flowers mean different things. Flowers often reference the bounty of plants, herbs, flowers, trees, nuts and fruits found in the New World. Flowers were highlighted in embroidered and hooked rugs made in New England during the early Colonial period. Likewise, Baltimore album quilts showed an abundance of plants and flowers when the art form peaked in popularity from 1846 to 1852. Some with embroidered flowers have sold for $40,000 to $50,000.

In 17th-century Holland, realistic still-life paintings of flowers, particularly tulips, were all the rage, and the method of painting was important to artists of the period. So intrigued by the forms of the flowers, they showed little regard for a particular flower’s growing season. Tulips would be depicted in a Delft vase along with carnations, iris, hibiscus, zinnias, dahlias and roses, even if the various flowers bloomed at different times of the year. The preeminent female Dutch baroque artist of this type of still-life painting, Rachel Ruysch, painted an oil composition of Honeysuckle and Other Flowers in a Blue Glass Vase that sold for $690,600
at auction.

The color of particular flowers offers special meaning. For instance, white lilies are associated with the Virgin Mary, purity and chastity. They are the flower of choice on Easter Sunday and the feast day of the Virgin Mary.

Deep orange, dark red and gold chrysanthemums were brought from China to Marseilles, France in 1789 and were hybridized in many forms. In Asia, mums are held in high esteem and associated with long life. One of the best known paintings of these blooms, Edgar Degas’ Woman with Chrysanthemums from 1865, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Dutch were charmed by carnations and often included them in watercolor albums documenting botanical examples. The carnation signified faithful love in marriage. Dutch masters, including Rembrandt, painted these and other flowers in wedding portraits of brides and grooms. Carnations are also carved into Dutch-style corner linen hardwood cupboards, a traditional gift to newlyweds setting up housekeeping. On today’s market, the old master paintings are worth far more than the antique Dutch cupboards.

As flowers speak volumes, you can highlight some of your favorite blossoms by collecting art and antiques with flowers in focus. Happy collecting!

Tulip botanical print.

Tulip botanical print.

Arts & Antiques by Dr. Lori

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