Do real artists still paint flowers?

Patrick Cullen explains the enduring appeal of paintings requiring only to be looked at

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I showed some paintings /* 9-970x90 */ of flowers I had done recently to a friend. He said he google_ad_width = 970; quite liked them but they appeared to create a problem for him. He seemed to feel that flowers were no longer a subject for serious artists, more one for Sunday painters.

​ Yes, he agreed, there had been wonderful art in this genre in the past, but google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; surely art progresses, certain things cease to be part of the zeitgeist. Shouldn’t a contemporary artist address subjects relevant

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to the times we now live in?

This set me thinking. Two things: when and in what sense were flowers ever relevant? And what kind of pressure do we artists put on ourselves in order to live up to that title: a serious artist? What if I’d been a song writer or a poet and

had shared something new I’d written, would the question of whether it was art or not have even crossed my friend’s mind?

There is

art that people throughout history and in different civilizations have tended to value. The beautiful images, icons, paintings, sculptures,
precious objects, stained glass and so on
that have been treasured through the ages speak not so much to the intellect but directly through the eyes  to the emotions and to the instinctive response of
the
mind to an aesthetic experience. This kind of art,
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much older and with a broader appeal than conceptual art will ever have, concerns itself with people’s desire to have a direct and intense communion with an object of beauty in which for a moment the chatter of the intellect is suspended. We have little difficulty recognizing this when we want to listen to great music with total attention, but it’s something as a culture we find harder with the visual. The art that can achieve this may well at times turn to traditional subjects, flowers even, but is src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> not //--> likely to be amateur or conservative, still less clichéd or unoriginal. Rather the reverse. Given our resistance to being astonished by anything, reheated recipes will not do.

Turner himself was rather partial to sunsets. He must have painted hundreds if not thousands; not thank goodness because he wanted to conduct an academic enquiry into some artistic genre but because he wanted the world to see sunsets through his eyes, to see a greater drama, sunsets as heraldic conquerors, blooded tragedians, burning martyrs and pale ghosts. Like Van Gogh, but half a century earlier, he was also an expressionist. His sunsets though closely observed are never dry records of an actual event. His abiding popularity points to a continuing appetite for art that unashamedly celebrates the poetry in nature in a unique and original fashion. That this kind of painting should die is no more likely than the death of poetry itself.

If you paint and are capable on occasions of being amazed by flowers, I defy you

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not

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to paint them. They’re bloody hard. How to be original about something painted so often? Yet flowers offer a remarkably diverse motif offering every shape and colour and a whole world of flora “personalities”. They’ll certainly open up your

you remember you’re first and foremost a painter.

 

 

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