Flowers are one of nature’s most spectacular gifts. For centuries, they have been used to brighten up homes and gardens around the world. It comes as no surprise that artists have tried to capture the inherently alluring beauty of flowers through their works. Some of the most well-known and respected masters, such as Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Claude Monet, used their iconic styles to portray the natural beauty found in flowers. Although there are countless works worthy of mention, the following is a list of 10 of the most iconic and inspiring flower paintings from the old masters.
Tuft of Cowslips by Albrecht Dürer (1526)
Albrecht Dürer was one of the preeminent Renaissance painters in Europe during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Countless patrons commissioned Dürer to create religious works and portraits on their behalf.
Although Dürer was primarily known for his portraits, he was known to paint still lifes from time to time. Tuft of Cowslips depicts a green leafy plant with two flowering stalks. The painting is simple and strikingly realistic for the time period. Tuft of Cowslips is currently on display in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Tulip by Judith Leyster (1643)
Judith Leyster was one of only three notable female Dutch artists during the Dutch Golden Age. Although she only painted one still life, Tulip, it had a level of detail and patterning that makes it an essential part of this list. The drawing uses two simple colors, green and red, to depict a stalk with two highly detailed leaves and a patterned flower at the top.
Vase de Pivoines by Henri Fantin-Latour (1881)
Henri Fantin-Latour was a prolific French painter and lithographer during the late 19th century. He was frequently commissioned by wealthy Parisian artists to create portraits for them. However, he was best known for his distinct style of painting flower and floral arrangements.
One well-known example of his floral paintings, Vase de Pivoines, depicts a bouquet of peonies in a vase with a mildly brown background. The pink peonies are rendered in lifelike detail with varying levels of focus, as if one were almost looking at a photograph.
Sunflowers by Claude Monet (1881)
Claude Monet was a French Impressionist best known for his depictions of landscapes and outdoor activities. His painting, Impression, Sunrise, is credited as the source of the term Impressionism. His works were often defined by an attention to detail and contrasting elements.
Sunflowers is one of the only still life paintings created by Monet. It features a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers in a tiny white vase. The entire bouquet sits on a black and red table which appears to be up against the corner of a wall. Sunflowers is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Lilacs in a Vase by Édouard Manet (1882)
Édouard Manet was a contemporary of Claude Monet; he was a Realist and Impressionist in his own right. Manet pioneered his own unique style, which included elements of the Impressionist movement such as thick lines and dark colors along with an alla prima technique.
Lilacs in a Vase followed his unique style, depicting a clear glass vase filled to the brim with white lilacs and light green leaves. The vase is resting on a lightly colored table in front of a dark background.
Irises by Vincent van Gogh (1889)
Vincent van Gogh remains one of the most prolific and well-known artists to date. His mastery of the post-impressionist style, while unappreciated by most during his short life, later became the inspiration for countless aspiring artists and contributed to the birth of the Expressionist movement. Today, Van Gogh’s paintings are among the most expensive and sought after in the world.
Irises is an oil painting created by Van Gogh the year before his death. It consists of numerous hearty blue Iris flowers jutting in various angles with a field of sunflowers in the background. Irises had the distinction in 1987 of being the most expensive painting ever sold at the time for $53.9 million to Alan Bond. Today the painting is owned by and on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.
Vase with Pink Roses by Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
Vase with Pink Roses is an iconic example of Van Gogh’s style of overwhelming the frame in his still life paintings by creating an abundance of flowering roses. The painting consists of mostly pink flowers and shades of green for the leaves and background, while using tan shades for the vase. Vase with Pink Roses is currently owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keeffe (1928)
Georgia O’Keeffe is renowned as one of the most prominent members of the American Modernism movement. Her style was defined by large-format works in which she captured the beauty and magnificence of subjects like flowers by magnifying them to a size that passers-by could not ignore.
Oriental Poppies is an oil painting that exemplifies her style in the form of a close-up of two vibrant poppies. The poppies are a blend of red and orange shading with a deep purple center. The flowers take up essentially the entire frame and appear to almost pop off the canvas. Oriental Poppies is considered one of O’Keeffe’s distinguishing paintings, and is currently on display at the University of Minnesota Art Museum in Minneapolis.
Black Hollyhock by Georgia O’Keeffe (1930)
Black Hollyhock is another example of O’Keeffe’s style of creating vibrant images that demand attention. The dark, almost velvety flower is in the foreground and takes up almost half the frame, while the shaded blue leaves almost seem to float in the background. The center of the flower is outlined in red, and is reminiscent of a bright star.
Flowers by Andy Warhol (1970)
Perhaps the most iconic member of the American Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol’s artistic style is known by art connoisseurs and laymen alike. His 1970 painting Flowers uses his familiar style of four panes depicting similar yet divergent colors and shapes. Although it is wildly different than the rest of the works referenced above, no list would be complete without it.