The sumptuous oil paintings of flowers created by Dutch artists during the 17th Century are well known. Rich people living then hired painters to paint portraits of themselves, their families, and also their flowers to demonstrate their wealth and social status.
When Tulip-mania was in full swing in Holland, there were also many commercial paintings done of the best tulips for advertising purposes. Each individual flower, during this period, was painted to look its best without any natural blemishes. The flowers were usually arranged in large groups in containers inside a room in a house.
Decor Over Accuracy
Flowers that bloomed at different times of the year in the gardens were grouped together in one composition in these rich and voluptuous still-life paintings. Thus spring blooming tulips, for example, would be in painted realistically but grouped in a vase with flowers that bloomed in the summer and fall.
The artistic representation did not reflect what was realistic in terms of companion bloomers at a certain time of year in the growing season. Thus the flower paintings of the 17th Century were decorative and often opulent, but not botanically accurate.
Of course the medium that was most popular, in this case oils, was not as conducive to precision in the execution of fine botanical details as water color or pen and ink. Opulent, decorative, sentimental, and even romantic images of flowers were preferred at this time. In some paintings of the period, flowers are even depicted as if they were just floating in the air.
The Business Of Painting Flowers
Since painters had to have patrons, and many of the patrons had rather ostentatious tastes, naturalism and scientific accuracy were not in vogue at this time in Europe. Nevertheless, many of the best flower paintings of the time have great appeal for flower lovers even today, as they depict blooms that are so lush and so beautiful.
For more information contact the American Society of Botanical Artists:
47 Fifth Avenue
New York City, NY 10003