1058 FLOWERS IN THE ART OF THE GREAT MASTERS
Hilary Hope Guise, artist and professor of art history, Florida State University, London
From ancient times flowers have played an important aesthetic and allegorical role in art. Empresses and kings decorated their palaces by painting gardens on the walls; the Egyptians painted gardens ‘in the afterlife’ with lily ponds and fish. In the Middle Ages revered persons were represented by roses in paintings and cathedrals. Troubadours sang of courtly love in a walled garden around an over-flowing fountain, while the ‘garden of the five senses’ became the forest in which the unicorn was hunted. Carpets of mille fleur appeared in the Verdure tapestries of Oudenaarde and Aubusson. In the seventeenth century Italian fruit baskets took on an allegorical role in the hands of Caravaggio. The Victorians were able to read flowery messages in many paintings. By the nineteenth century Europe was blighted with revolution, yet Manet was comforted on his deathbed by just two anemones in a tooth mug. Van Gogh poured hope into his sunflowers and irises, and was treated with poisonous foxglove. Monet’s purest joy was his garden at Giverny. The Cape flower sellers, rendered through the brush of Irma Stern, bring this three-lecture course to an end.
1. The secret garden – from ancient Rome to the Medieval walled garden
2. The language of flowers – from the seventeenth century Vanitas to the Victorians
3. Flowers for healing, consolation and cure – from Manet’s courtesans and Monet’s water-lily pond to Irma Stern’s Cape flower sellers