The Language of Flora
What is your favourite flower? Is there a particular flower or floral scent, for instance, that reminds you of a meaningful time in your life? Flowers are entwined with a rich history of representation not only in every day life but also in art. Nestled in the extraordinary masterpieces of artists such as Claude Monet, Andy Warhol and Geargia O’keefe, flower motifs have been frequently painted as expressive and poignant forms of symbolism. During the 1400s, for example, Renaissance paintings used flowers that conveyed deep philosophical and religious sentiments. The late 1800s saw expressionist artists capturing flowers as representations for something that was meaningful to them. And in the early and mid 1900s depictions of flowers transformed from being just observations of nature into more abstract and exaggerated forms.
These beautiful and colourful florets have been so effectively versatile throughout history because they have a way of communicating certain messages and invoking emotions, feelings and specific responses from their observers. It is because of this that artists have used them to capture a particular story and personality in artworks for centuries. Whether they are used as a background detail or as the focal point of a canvas, flowers can serve as a motif for almost any emotion or feeling that you can think of; love, passion, sorrow, purity, innocence and even death.
When you are creating, try thinking about what feeling you want to invoke and then utilise a specific flower that can help you convey that message. To help you get started, here are a few examples:
Red Rose: The red rose is something we can all recognise by its frequent symbolic uses. The lover’s rose began its illustrious symbolic journey in Greek and Roman iconography, where it is seen tied to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Today the rose is often given to loved ones for valentines day and is said to represent enduring passion. ‘Bouquet of Roses’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is a great example of how the simple red rose can invoke such a sensual feeling.
The Sunflower: With such bright and bold colouring, how can the sunflower represent anything but joy and happiness? Vincent Van Gogh artfully captures the euphoric charm of this flower in his sunflower series. It is said that Van Gogh even took this flower as his own personal artistic signature as he created several versions of them which became a distinctive and popular part of his work.
The Water-lily: The water-lily, also known as the lotus flower, is often a symbol of rebirth but also correlates with its religious cogitations as a symbol of beauty, peace and enlightenment. In Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ painting, the water-lily features as the main attraction and portrays the serenity and purity of the painting.
The Poppy: There are not many that would not recognise this beautiful flower, as it makes an appearance every year as a symbol for Remembrance Day. Thus, these flowers hold a deep connection with remembrance and consolation.‘Red Poppy’ by Georgia O’Keeffe truly captures the tranquillity of this elegant blossom.