Extended through September 24, 2017
People have admired flowers for centuries and this summer
we celebrate floral objects from the Museum’s collections—
a masterpiece book of designs, a drawing by Georgia O’Keeffe,
a rug by Matisse. The paintings, photographs, and decorated
objects on display are full of beauty and surprise and illustrate
the ways we express our love of flowers in art and decoration.
The British and French art establishments of the
18th century deemed flower painting insignificant because they
thought it did not convey elevated themes. Nineteenth-century
American artists, who revered all forms of nature, disagreed.
To them the colored, curled, and fragile petals seemed to hold
poetic allusions to ephemeral beauty and life.
Flowers in art appear as the primary subject matter
and also highlight larger scenes. We see flowers in artistic but
also scientifically accurate botanical illustrations, in still-life
paintings and, as accessories in portraits. Artists often paint
women with blooms to suggest the fleeting nature of beauty.
Photographers, influenced by centuries of still life and garden
painting, turn their cameras on flowers too, sometimes to make
symbolic associations, sometimes to study artistic form. Stone
flowers ornament architecture, cloth flowers our clothes,
painted flowers our crockery. Whether arranged into
gardens and bouquets or depicted as art and
decoration, these “gems of nature” fill our lives
with visual and emotional pleasure.
The exhibition was made possible, in part, by the generosity of an
“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.
We haven't time—and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.”
Selected Objects in the Exhibition