Famous Flower Paintings

By Marilyn Loser
2014 November 26

Today, as I write, is a November day as depicted in Thomas Hood’s poem November.  Two lines come to mind, “No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, … No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! “

We had a wonderfully long, still, and warm fall.  My last garden flowers bent their brown heads last week.  Already, I miss beautiful blooms.  To cheer myself up, I thought about famous flower paintings -- a great way to brighten my day!

As a native of New Mexico, I have a special fondness for Georgia O’Keeffe. I actually saw her in her Abiquiu, NM, yard many years ago – when I was young and only had a few postcards of flower paintings. She moved to New Mexico in her forties after being born and living back east.

I love her in-your-face flower paintings.  Her 1932 Jimson Weed painting is of a white, voluptuous desert bloom It is especially compelling to me. I love seeing the large, fresh looking blossoms that grow in the arid, dusty desert earth. All parts are poisonous, but the in the seventies, folks in search of a new high tried Sacred Datura – I did not!




O’Keeffe Jimson Weed

O’Keeffe Black Iris

O’Keeffe Oriental Poppies


I didn’t realize that the painting sold last Thursday for $44.4 million dollars until I was seeking information for this column.  According to the Guardian, Jimson Weed once hung in George W Bush’s dining room and was sold by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM, to benefit its acquisitions fund. Petunias

Several other favorites include her Black Iris (1906), Oriental Poppies (1928), and Petunias (1925) – all flowers that do well in Alamosa. Sadly, my black iris died, but I have plenty of red perennial Oriental Poppies and I buy colorful petunias each spring.  In fact, I still have 2 baskets in my small, indoor greenhouse.

Georgia O’Keeffe also created a Sunflower painting.  She’s not alone in choosing this subject.  Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet painted beautiful sunflower arrangements. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (late 1880’s - original title, in French, Tournesols) is in the National Gallery, London, and I was extremely happy to see it in person. However, on this gloomy morning, the image on my computer screen will just have to do!





Van Gogh


Sunflowers tend to grow in many parts of the world. The Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) that we see along roadsides are called sunflowers, but I believe the taller and larger ones depicted in the famous paintings are of the Helianthus species.  They grow well in Alamosa gardens when watered, but typically need to be replanted from new seed each year.  Ones that replant themselves in my yard tend to produce smaller blossoms.

I love Manet’s Lilacs in a Vase (c 1982).  The white blooms seem almost carelessly arranged.  But they are so graceful and inviting in their crystal vase.  Apparently, during his long, final illness, he painted photos of flowers his friends brought to his Paris sickroom.  I love arranging flowers from the garden in vases – I even have a crystal one.  However, my arrangements often appear as ‘plunks’ rather than exquisite creations! Still, it is hard to screw up a bunch of lovely flowers.




Manet Lilacs

Monet Blue Water Lilies

Monet garden c 1900


The most famous paintings of gardens are of Monet’s Giverny gardens, I think. You see images of his paintings on tote bags, greeting cards, and trays in many museum shops. His Blue Water Lilies (1916 – 1919) is an all-time favourite of mine.  Alas, Alamosa’s climate doesn’t lend itself to water lily gardens.  As a youngster, I remember stopping near the entrance of the NM State Fairgrounds to view the water lilies in a fountain. Yes, I would reach over and caress them!

There’s a short (2 minutes), silent film of Monet painting in his garden on the web. It was shot in 1915 when he was 74 years old.  I was particularly struck by the very clean white suit he was wearing while and after painting!

Please visit AlamosaTrees.net under the Newspaper tab for a link to the video and images of the paintings described here. 

Fortunately, on gloomy winter days to come I have beautiful flowers gracing my walls thanks to artists Sue Patterson, Julie Schoenecker, Marty Mitchell, and Frances Dodd.

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” Claude Monet