Arts Everyday Living: May, Beautiful May—A Festival of Flowers in Art




Here’s a festival of flowers for the month of May by a variety of artists: French Impressionists Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) plus their fellow countryman Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904); American Impressionist Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939); and other 19th century painters such as Danish realist Michael Ancher (1849-1927); Russian innovator Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887); and British  Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse (1849-1917).


Frederick Carl Frieseke, Girl in Blue Arranging Flowers, c. 1915, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

A flower blossoms for its own joy.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

I love the impact of the reflection in the mirror.  She is especially vivid in a blue striped dress which pulls the eyes into the scene.  So many shades and hues of blue to celebrate the color! Wow!

Daena Kluegel

The Frieseke is my favorite because of the colors–the blues and golds and touches of white are so wonderful.  And I interpret the area on the right as a window reflected in the mirror and picking up the same blues and golds.

Kay Oshel


Ivan Kramskoy, Bouquet of Flowers, 1884, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Surely the flowers of a hundred springs are simply the souls of beautiful things!

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

Again I am struck by the colors used…the blue container and the very yellow-green leaves and then the warm colored blooms.  All this still life is centered and one can enjoy the play of light on the composition! Feels peaceful.

Daena Kluegel


Michael Ancher, A Girl with Sunflowers, 1889, oil on canvas, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days.

Robert Leighton (1611-1684)

She is dressed in similar colors to the joyous flowers.  However, she seems quite calm and peaceful rather than excited by the lovely brilliantly colored blooms and the copper container. So the flowers are truly the CENTER of this piece.

Daena Kluegel

I like the Ancher also with the lights, the darks, and the golds of her bodice and skirt, partially covered by the dark of her apron (?)  With her pale face the woman seems to recede while the flowers and bowl dominate.

Kay Oshel


Claude Monet, Sunflowers, 1881, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)

Another still life of a vase of flowers, and table perfectly presented as an impressionistic lovely piece on nature.

Daena Kluegel


Berthe Morisot, Young Woman Watering a Shrub; 1876, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

God will reward you, he said. You must be an angel since you care for flowers.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

A girl in white facing away from us is watering the plant.  Very calm and peaceful yet a lovely impressionistic moment.

Daena Kluegel

I also think the Morisot is wonderful.  I like the way the figure is framed by the strong verticals on either sid of her and looks almost as if she’s about to go onto the stage.  I might even find some food metaphors to describe the sky if I were so inclined!

Kay Oshel


Henri Fantin-Latour, Poppies, 1891, oil on canvas, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

I compared this with the Monet sunflowers…the use of colors and details of blooms, leaves and stems.  Again, I wonder how do those skilled artists manage to paint clear glass vases and clear water inside them? What colors do they use to work that magic?

Daena Kluegel

The Fantin-Latour is my favorite of the still lifes.  I was trying to puzzle out why and then I realized it’s because of the stem of the flowers front of the vase.  To me that adds an invisible human touch.  It looks like someone was interrupted in the process of arranging the flowers and will return shortly to put the stem in the space for it in the front of the vase.

Kay Oshel


John William Waterhouse, The Soul of the Rose, 1908, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers.

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

I do not know this artist but he does paint a lovely scene! I imagine it could lead to a romantic story…the red haired woman inhaling the aroma of a climbing rose bloom.

Daena Kluegel

When I first saw the Waterhouse, I thought is was by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but of course he was long dead by 1908.  I don’t actually know anything about Waterhouse, but I like the colors in the painting very much.

Kay Oshel













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