AIA’s Favorite Flower Paintings
People have been painting flowers for as long as people have been doing art. The painting of flowers has become common place not only because of the subject’s beauty and color, but also because the flower provides the perfect metaphor for the vibrancy of our own lives.
To honor the artistic significance of the flower, you’re friends at AIA have put together a list of the best in flower art.
Our Fav “Paintings of Flowers” List Starts With: Sunflowers, c.1881– Claude Monet
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was at the heart of Impressionism, his work embodying everything that the movement stood for. His piece presented here is something of an anomaly in his oeuvre; rarely did he paint flowers as a standalone object, with still lives in general offering him little inspiration. Yet, when he did, the work was often heralded as a masterpiece. Monet chose subjects for how they received light, which is why he painted most of his works sur-le-motif – literally on the subject, often painting the same subject at different times of the day so as to compare and contrast the effect the position of the sun had on objects. He painted fields, meadows, haystacks, flowers and river scenes, setting up camp as close to his subjects as possible with some detractors labeling him a ‘lunatic.’ He is perhaps most famous for his huge garden at his home Giverny, an all-encompassing monolith of a garden where he indulged in another of his favorite pastimes – flower paintings. Towards the end of his career, Monet became an abstract artist yet he still retained his love for flower paintings via a series of waterlilies paintings.
The 2nd Spot on the List of Flower Paintings goes to: Georgia O’Keeffe, Untitled (Vase of Flowers)
Georgie O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986) was born in Wisconsin but studied art in Chicago and New York, where she won a still life prize for an early oil painting, Dead Rabbit With Copper Pot. Yet she gave up art for good after her studies, until she was inspired a few years later by the work of Arthur Wesley Doe. Now, she is perhaps the most famous female who produced paintings of flowers. Hailed in some quarters as the artist who introduced America to modernism, which was a major feat for a female at the turn of the 20th century, she was a cultural icon, on par with other great modernist figures, including Virginia Woolf. Her painting presented here contains relics of more traditional art combined with Fauvism, which continued to influence her work until she fully embraced modernism and all that it had to offer.
Our 3rd Fav Piece of Flower Art is: Andy Warhol – Flowers (1970)
Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) struggled all his life to be accepted as a serious artist, with his early commercial work often prejudicing opinion on his entire artistic output for years to come. Known mostly for his paintings of cultural icons, such as Elvis Presley, and mass-produced objects of consumption, Warhol, in fact, had a long-standing interest in flower art, and produced a good many over a period of a great many years. Warhol was a keen manipulator of the media yet his work here is a testament to his eye for color and harmony. Though his flowers are removed from their context, though their colors are entirely uniform without a hint of nuance, and though barely a jot of their original nature remains aside from their shapes, their vibrancy and effervescence shines through.
Our 4th Spot on Fav “Paintings of Flowers” is held by: Bouquet d’Arums- Raoul Dufy
Raoul Dufy (1877 – 1953) was a subscriber to the short-lived Fauvist school of painting, of which Matisse was also a participant. The Fauvists, who were labelled ‘The Wild Ones’ because of their free, uncontrolled use of color, injected an energy and vitality into art that had not previously been there. Abandon became the name of the day as opposed to control and elegance. Dufy’s painting here showcases clinically Fauvism’s guiding principles; colors flow into each other, contours collapse, and, indeed, in his paintings of flowers, the flowers almost appear as though they are floating, flying.
Our 5th Spot Goes to: Blumen am Fenster-Auguste Macke
August Macke (1887 – 1914) was a contemporary of Kandinsky, a progenitor of German Expressionism, and a fine young artist who still had so much to give before his life was cut cruelly short on the German front, just months into the Great War. Yet in his short life he crammed many experiments and theoretical musings into his art so as to become virtually synonymous with Expressionism, leaving a legacy on art that still has his name mentioned the art world over today. His work here utilizes a typically warm palette informed by reds and greens, the influence of the French master Cezanne clear. Colors and shapes are chosen not so much for their roots in reality but for the harmony they create in the overall piece.
Twelve Sunflowers In A Vase, by Vincent Van Gogh makes The 6th Spot for the Flower Paintings List
Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) gave rise to the still-prevalent idea of the ‘tortured artist’ whose whole life and work is absorbed by the need to create, a life whose very existence depends on being able to produce art. A fringe member of society, a lone wolf, a man who has been described variously as a ‘force of nature’ and a ‘phenomena’, Van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Yet his life’s work, so full of color, expresses a happier soul, a soul in love with life, light, nature, and wonder. This was in stark contrast to his embedded sadness. In 1888 he painted a series of flower paintings, the most famous of which is Twelve Sunflowers In A Vase, as presented here. The sunflower represents happiness, warmth and love. Van Gogh, in his characteristic style, here shows us the love that was in his aching heart; a love that was very rarely warmly received by others.
Our Fav “Paintings of Flowers” List 7th Slot goes to: Still Life with Gladioli– Gladiolen Still Leben –Paul Klee
Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) was one of the very first abstract artists and is known for, among other things, producing abstract paintings of flowers. In his later life, he was mired by illness and having to operate and paint under the menacing shadow of Nazism, an ideology which viewed his work as ‘degenerate’ and which labelled him a Jew. But throughout his peak years he would often produce over 500 paintings a year. Klee, a deep thinker, produced very studied abstract art which was often informed by his color theories relating to tonality, something which can be seen in his flower art here. The piece is built using small color fields that conglomerate, with various tones of brown surrounding the colorful centre. Although we can just about make out the shape of a few petals, the title of the work is the only true indication that what we are looking at is a flower. It is one of the first abstract flower paintings ever produced and came at a time when Klee was about to disembark from realism altogether.
Arche Noah –Friedensreich Hundertwasser Is Number 8
Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000) is among Austria’s most famous painters, with many ranking his influence being as great and as far-reaching as some of his more decorated countrymen, including Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele. Indeed, these great artistic figures were a huge inspiration for Hundertwasser, yet his work stands out as a testament to his own personal ideology of individualism. His work is like no other; his swirling chrome patterns are hypnotic, unruly, and, above all, awash with color and imagination. His flower art featured here is atypical of his body of work; abstract symbols that have their roots in reality, with the flowers being recognizable for their long stems and circular heads. Swirling colors wrap themselves around each other, the work seems alive.
Flowers And Pears – Paul Cezanne is Number 9
Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) was one of the true masters. He once remarked that ‘the eye has to do more than just see. It has to think.’ Without Cezanne, there would have been no Picasso. Cezanne painted a tremendous amount of still lives, with fruit and paintings of flowers his particular favorites. He would often spend hours – perhaps even days – setting up his bowls of fruit so that they were exactly how he wanted them. To him, they were actors, props, and if their positioning was even slightly askew, the whole harmony of the painting would be ruined. He wasn’t interested in simply painting a piece of fruit for its own sake; he cared more for the color harmonies that two objects next to one another created. He was interested in the relationships between objects. For this reason he occasionally did flower paintings, as can be seen in the flower art here. Here the greens dominate, but the painting is given warmth and nuance by the reds of the pears. The sharp cuttings of the plant contrast with the smooth, elegiac shapes of the fruit to create tension.
And Our Final Spot On Our Fav “Paintings of Flowers” List Goes to: Garland Of Flowers – Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) was, along with Monet, one of the founding fathers of Impressionism and he produced a great many paintings of flowers. Like Monet, nature interested him the most and he believed greatly that light was the source of all colour. Like all the Impressionists, Renoir at first struggled to establish himself and make a living as an artist, with the French public and collectors of the day unenthusiastic about the new style that the bohemian artists were trying to cultivate. Yet his eye for color was practically unequalled, as is displayed in the painting featured here. Like the energetic Fauves, his colors react wildly with one another to create a sort of visual maelstrom. Flowers become hard to identify, blurring into one another. This painting, which was produced toward the end of his life and career, is close to being a complete abstract, its influence no doubt coming from other artists who were veering into abstraction at the time.