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How did the passion for flower symbolism originate among creative people? - Alexandra Ozerova

How did the passion for flower symbolism originate among creative people? - Alexandra Ozerova

Images of flowers have always been present in the cultures of all countries. Flowers are present at all significant events in a person's life from cradle to grave.

No wonder all creative people - composers, writers, and artists dedicated their works to flowers, making them a part or the main character of their works.

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece,” wrote Claude Monet.

But the passion for flower symbolism among creative people began long before that.

In ancient Egypt, the images of the sacred lotus - a symbol of resurrection to a new life - served as decoratins of columns, walls of temples and pyramids, while in ancient Greece, the hawthorn flower served as the symbol of love.

Flower symbolism was widely used in Christian art - a red carnation is a symbol of suffering and blood shed by Jesus Christ, a lily stands for good news, and a white rose is divine love.

Flowers are present on icons, frescoes and paintings of medieval artists.

But in the XVth-XVIth centuries, the rose was also present in the portraits of lovers, symbolizing betrothal.

A good example is the "Annunciation" (1435) by Jan van Eyck, which depicts Virgin Mary reading the Book of Isaiah. Next to her is a white lily - a symbol of purity.

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The white rose in paintings was a symbol of innocence, and one of the meanings of the iris is the immaculate conception.

Flowers seem to speak of what is left behind the scenes.

On many religious canvases, wreaths of roses, as well as flower garlands, symbolize the unification of all Christians.

Flowers were a typical attribute in the works of many artists: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Jan Brueghel (the elder) (1568-1625), Jan Bruegel (the younger) (1601-1678), and Hendrick van Balen.

Flowers were not only additions to the work, but also the main characters.

The Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526 or 1527-1593), known for his "vegetable portraits", also painted "flower girls".


It is impossible to imagine 12th-16th-century painting without flower symbolism.

The flower language, like any other, has changed over time, adapting to the conditions of the country in which it was used.

The romantic painter Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863) is best known for his narrative paintings “Liberty Leading the People" and “The Death of Sardanapalus.” Among his works there are also many flower paintings, including “Bouquet of Flowers” (1849-1850).


“Painting flowers is struggling with time,” said the author, who tried to paint a flower before it withered.

Pre-Raphaelites reveal the floral theme even in more detail. In one of his most famous works, "Ophelia" (1851-1852), John Everett Millais (1829-1896) depicted the scene of the death of Shakespeare's character. For Pre-Raphaelites, plants had a symbolic meaning, that is why the roses near Ophelia’s cheek and dress, a willow, nettles and daisies are associated with pain and innocence. The figure of Ophelia was added to the painting later.


Flowers are also in the focus in one of the most expensive paintings by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) "Irises" (1889).


In May of that year, after self-mutilation, van Gogh stayed in an asylum in Saint-Rémy. There he created many of his most famous paintings.

He painted "Irises" working en plein air in the garden. He considered the painting to be a diversion from his illness, because while he was painting, he could control it.

Impressionism and floral themes seem to be inseparable from each other.

Everyone knows the famous water lilies by Claude Monet (1840-1926).


The work caused a frenzy only in the spring of 2018, when it was put up for auction at Christie's and immediately became one of the most expensive lots - was sold for 84.7 million dollars.

Of course, one cannot but mention the floral motifs in the paintings of Russian artists:

- Vasily Polenov (1844-1927) - "Bouquet of Flowers" (1880),

- Vasily Surikov (1848-1916) - "Bouquet" (1884),

- Ilya Repin (1844-1930) - "Bouquet of Flowers" (1878),

- Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887) - “A bouquet. Phlox flowers" (1884).

A special attitude to the most delicate flower petals is noticeable in the portraits and still lifes of Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910). And his "Rose in a Glass" (1904) is a symbol not only of freshness, but also of sadness, since it was painted in a hard period of his life associated with the death of his son and his own illness.

The vision and interpretation of colors by artists has changed over time.

Salvador Dali depicted a rose instead of the sun in the painting "Flower" ("Meditative Rose") (1958)


The founder of pop art, Andy Warhol (1928-1987), dedicated a whole series under the same title to flowers, due to which he temporarily moved away from the topics of consumerism and death.


One of the most iconic masters of our time, Takashi Murakami (1962), also devoted quite a few works to flowers. For example, "An Homage to Monopink, 1960" (2012).


And among the famous sculptures of Jeff Koons (1955), there are ones dedicated to flowers: in 2012, "Tulips" were sold at an auction for 33.7 million dollars.


“Bouquet of Tulips” is a symbol of memory, optimism and healing to move forward after the terrible events that took place a year ago in Paris,” Koons wrote in a press release in 2016 about one of the versions for “Tulips”.

The theme of flowers is still relevant and inexhaustible.

Alexandra Ozerova - Painted more than 300 paintings of flowers and exhibited her works in a gallery in Colombia. Her works are in private collections all over the world from Australia to the USA. She opened her own online drawing school and taught more than 3,000 students from all over the world. 

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