Flower Paintings: Then and Now
Flowers have always served to elevate people’s mood, be they used for weddings, festivals, or everyday decoration. The sight of flowers — in painting as much as in nature — draws people’s attention like a magnet. Flowers, too, have the power to inspire creativity. The blooming of flowers brings with it a sense of happiness and excitement that can motivate artists to paint even during the gloomiest of times.
In India, the traditional art form rangoli uses many flower patterns for a variety of celebrations. Rangoli are usually created using powders made from colored chalk, quartz, rice, sand and flowers on the floor at door entrances, with unique designs passed down from one generation to the next.
Flower paintings have served not only for visual impact and aesthetic pleasure in India; they have also been used historically to record collections of botanical and herbal plants. Artists Rungiah and Govindoo, for example, illustrated many Indian plants in the mid 18th century. Remarkably, 711 of their original plates have survived in the library of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Flower painting (huahui) in China was associated with Buddhist art and thus took on spiritual significance. Though Chinese flower painting dates back thousands of years, it became extremely popular in the 10th century. This style of painting featured precise ink outlines on silk or paper. The lines were then filled with bright colored ink or tonal washes, creating a calming and serene effect.
In modern times, the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the most famous 20th century American artists, encouraged even the busiest New Yorkers to patiently observe and appreciate flowers. She said, “Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small it takes time — we haven't time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, contemporary artist Michelle Wilcox similarly uses a meticulous methodology in her floral paintings. She paints each flower one at a time, really looking at their characteristics and spending time with them. The result is a balance between what is stated through line and what is stated through form. On her paintings of lilies, Wilcox said, “Since I didn’t arrange the flowers beforehand, I was thinking a lot about layering/overlap to create a blend of space and pattern. I was also thinking about the significance of flowers as symbols for feminine energy and women’s empowerment through femininity: they are ripe, full of color, and pollinator type of flowers.”
Abstractionist Daniel McCord Taylor draws inspiration from flowers for his present show “For the Love of Color” at the Venvi Art Gallery. In one painting, “Flower Power,” Taylor has thrown several colors on canvas as a stress reliever, creating a striking and energetic abstract floral arrangement. In this way, he demonstrates the versatility of flower painting and shows how the ancient subject matter can still delight viewers.
Brinda Pamulapati, owner/managing director, of Venvi Art Gallery in Tallahassee, can be reached at (850) 322-0965 or visit www.VenviArtGallery.com