Art as we know it has been around for centuries. And so have flowers, as a form of decoration, or for the purpose of gift-giving. But why do so many pieces of art feature flowers? Surely there’s got to be more to it than just capturing their obvious beauty?
In nature, flowers have a really simple purpose: reproduction. Their bright and beautiful petals and intoxicating scents lure insects in order for fertilization and therefore survival. But why do humans find flowers pleasing to the eye? Some argue that flowers signal a proximity to fruit, and therefore food. While others have suggested that blooms attract humans with their gorgeous colours and symmetrical forms. Whatever the reason for the human attraction, people have long associated flowers with personal, cultural, and religious significance. And this applies to artists too! Flowers have long been used to represent many aspects and emotions of human life, from reproduction to death, purity, anger, and love.
Take a close look at any Christian art, for example, and you’ll probably spot some flowers in there somewhere. Many scenes featuring the Virgin Mary feature white lilies, believed to represent the Virgin’s purity and chasteness. Other Christian artworks feature red carnations, signifying a love for Christ and foreshadowing His crucifixion.
Still life painting in 17th-century Holland, on the other hand, is famous for featuring exotic possessions, such as tulip bulbs and glass, alongside wilting flowers, hourglasses and sometimes even skulls. All deliberately intended to capture the fleeting nature of materialistic possessions and indeed human life. Fresh flowers were also painted by the Dutch in order to signify the power of Holland during that time.
Under the reign of Queen Victoria, many people in Victorian England began sending secret messages to loved ones by way of flowers. Following the same idea, artists filled their paintings with hidden floral symbolism and designers, such as William Morris, produced colourful wallpapers patterned with flowers and plants as a way of satisfying the desire for all things floral by bringing flowers into the home.
In more recent times, Georgia O’Keeffe once said “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” Her view of flowers challenged viewers to really take the time to slow down, appreciate, and look carefully at their natural surroundings and what they were observing.
It’s only more recently that real flowers have been used as physical artistic material. There are many examples of 3D installations using flowers as sculptures around the globe. In 1992, the American artist Jeff Koons created Puppy, a 43-foot-tall sculpture of a West Highland Terrier covered in a carpet of more than 60,000 flowering plants. Now based at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, the giant sculpture continues to grow, with a variety of brightly-coloured flowers sprouting from its surface.
All this is to say that flowers and art are very much intertwined. If you’d like your very own piece of floral art, head over here. You can place an order for pick-up or delivery within the GTA, and every order comes beautifully gift wrapped too!