10 Artworks Inspired By Flowers

By Google Arts & Culture

Red Cannas (1927) by Georgia O'KeeffeAmon Carter Museum of American Art

Discover the artists who've used fabulous flora in their works

Flowers for spring? Groundbreaking. In all seriousness though, blooming blossoms and flowering buds have long signified the end to dark winters and the beginning of fresh spring mornings and greener landscapes.

Peonies and Canary (Shakuyaku, kanaari), from an untitled series known as Small Flowers (about 1834 (Tenpō 5)) by Katsushika Hokusai, published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudō)Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As well as their environmental significance, flowers have attracted artists for their rich symbolism, and, of course, their diverse color palettes. Here we take a look at 12 artists who have used flowers as both subject and material.

Water Lilies (1916) by Claude MonetThe National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

1. Claude Monet

Claude Monet’s series of water lily paintings have become his most recognizable works. Made up of around 250 oil paintings, Monet’s artworks capture his flower garden in his home in Giverny. Many of the works were painted while the artist suffered from cataracts and became his main focus during the last 30 years of his life.

Painted in the Impressionist style, the colors Monet has used in Water Lilies, are rich and vibrant. They differ from his previous paintings, and other Impressionists, because they're so immersive. Impressionist landscapes often aimed to depict a whole vista, but Monet makes his colorful lilies the entire focus. Zoom into the painting to get a sense of the artist's energetic brushwork.

Sunflowers (January 1889 - 1889) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum

2. Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh made two series of his now-iconic Sunflowers. The first series, done in Paris in 1888, depicts the flowers lying on the ground. The second, more famous set was executed a year later in Arles, and shows a bouquet of sunflowers in a vase.

The vivid yellows were made possible by the introduction of new pigments that Van Gogh used eagerly. The floral paintings decorated the so-called Yellow House in Arles. His fellow artist friend Paul Gaugin once depicted Van Gogh painting sunflowers, but Van Gogh felt Gaugin had “portrayed him as a madman”.

Red Cannas (1927) by Georgia O'KeeffeAmon Carter Museum of American Art

3. Georgia O’Keeffe

As a gardener, artist Georgia O’Keeffe was often inspired to make a dozen or more paintings of a specific flower. It’s said she became interested in the brilliant colors and billowing petals of canna lilies when she visited Lake George, New York in 1918. The Red Canna series began with watercolor depictions of these vibrant flowers but O’Keeffe progressed onto abstract, close-up images in oil, which now epitomize the artist’s Modernist style.

Often described as erotic, O’Keeffe's flower paintings experimented with shades of red, yellow and orange, magnifying the lilies' textures, sweeping lines, and plump shapes. In this oil painting from 1927, the artist focuses on the wild red petals of the flower.

Flowers (1970) by Andy WarholPomona College Museum of Art

4. Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol’s series, Flowers, is made up of ten screenprints based on photographs taken by Patricia Caulfield which were featured in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography magazine. Warhol makes the photographs his own by flattening and cropping and adding vibrant, contrasting colors.

Still-Life with Flowers (1617) by Ambrosius Bosschaert the ElderHallwyl Museum

5. Ambrosius Bosschaert

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a still life painter of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.

Bosschaert was one of the first artists to focus on still life painting, and he started a tradition of painting detailed bouquets of tulips and roses. He focused on scientific accuracy, though the flowers still contained symbolic and religious meanings. Thanks to the booming 17th-century Dutch art market, he became highly successful. The artist rarely varied his compositions and three motifs remained common: flowers in a vase, on a table and either in a niche or window sill.

Puppy (1992) by Jeff KoonsGuggenheim Bilbao

6. Jeff Koons

Puppy is a large-scale sculpture by artist Jeff Koons and currently stands guard at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Known for testing the boundaries between popular and elite culture, this piece employs computer modeling to create a work that references 18th-century formal European gardens. Using flowers as decoration, Koons carpets a giant West Highland terrier in bedding plants, making for one monstrously cute pup.

Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (ca. 1680s - ca. 1680s) by Rachel RuyschNational Museum of Women in the Arts

7. Rachel Ruysch

Rachel Ruysch was a still-life painter from the Northern Netherlands. She specialized in flowers, inventing her own style and achieving international fame in her lifetime. Due to a long and successful career that spanned over 6 decades, she became the best documented woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

Unlike Bosschaert, Ruysch’s compositions were often asymmetrical with blossoms arranged in pyramid shapes with curving stems adding volume. The artist celebrated color, texture and form in her works with a high level of minute attention to detail even capturing individual grains of pollen inside each open flower, zoom in and see if you can spot the grains.

Zinnias in a Pot (1965) by Clementine HunterSCAD Museum of Art

8. Clementine Hunter

Self-taught folk artist Clementine Hunter is known for her colorful and straightforward scenes from her memories of life on a Southern plantation. Hunter first began painting in her 50s, using brushes and paints left by an artist who visited Melrose Plantation, where she then lived and worked. Having worked primarily in the cotton fields and then as a domestic servant, her compositions include scenes of outdoor activity and still lifes of everyday objects.

Varied arrangements of zinnias, a flower that can commonly be found in the South, is a subject to which she continually returned. Zinnias in a Pot captures a freshly cut bunch of blooms in flat perspective against a vibrant yellow background. The flowers confront the viewer with their simple beauty and vibrancy, extending out beyond the edge of their small blue pot.

Rose (Registered 1883) by William MorrisThe Baltimore Museum of Art

9. William Morris

William Morris was an English textile designer and was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts . His designs were often based on natural forms, many of which were flowers. In fact out of his nearly 600 designs, almost all feature flowers, leaves, trees or plants. This rose design, registered in 1883, demonstrates Morris’ eye for repeated patterns and symmetry in soft hues.

White Lilacs in a Crystal Vase (Lilas blancs dans un vase de cristal) (1882 or 1883) by Édouard ManetThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

10. Édouard Manet

Impressionist painter Édouard Manet created flower paintings throughout his career, culminating in a group of 20 floral still lifes, most produced in the last year of his life. Manet was often visited by his closest friends who brought him fresh flowers, which he then painted from his bedside.

In this painting of lilacs from 1882, the flowers have been placed in a crystal vase, and set on a marble tabletop. Despite his failing health, Manet managed to create a painting of rich brushwork, full of flecks of white that convey the delicate petals of the lilac flower.

Cypripedium (1854) by Anna Atkins and Anne DixonThe J. Paul Getty Museum

11. Anna Atkins

Anna Atkins was an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. Atkins adopted the cyanotype process, which produces a blue print. Within a year, she applied the process to algae and other plants and flowers by making photograms, contact printed "by placing the unmounted dried-algae original directly on the cyanotype paper.”

This image of an orchid was created in 1854 and captures the translucent outline of the flower. The photograph appears in Atkins’ third self-published book titled Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns.

Peonies and Canary (Shakuyaku, kanaari), from an untitled series known as Small Flowers (about 1834 (Tenpō 5)) by Katsushika Hokusai, published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudō)Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

12. Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist, printmaker and ukiyo-e painter of the Edo period. He is best known for his woodblock print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which led to national and international recognition.

Hokusai produced many other series of works including several bird and flower prints (also known as kachō-ga). Full of detail and beautiful colors, this particular print features peonies and a canary and also contains a short poem about the flower. It reads: “Double-flowered peonies from Yangzhou, the king of flowers in bloom this spring”.

Cypripedium (1854) by Anna Atkins and Anne DixonThe J. Paul Getty Museum

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