Sunday, 14 August 2016

'Dutch Flowers' at the National Gallery

There's a lovely little exhibition of floral paintings on at the National Gallery at the moment called, simply, 'Dutch Flowers'. It's in Room 1 beside the front entrance to the Gallery and is made up of a couple of dozen paintings of flowers by Dutch artists over the 1600s - 1700s at the peak of the Dutch fascination with flowers.

As well as the riot of colour in the paintings, it's worth looking at the fine detail, the insects seeking nectar, the fruit tucked in beside the flowers and, occasionally, the dead fowl. I wasn't keen on those. Given the incredible detail it's quite surprising how small these paintings are, none more that about 2'6" high so how these artists managed to fit so much detail in is quite astonishing.

As the signs for the paintings made clear, none of them are particularly 'real' portrayals of flower arrangements since they include flowers that aren't in season with one another. I get that, but it sort of makes them even more impressive that they were painted over at least a year as different flowers came into bloom, and keeping the composition a unified whole. That might help explain the inclusion of so much fruit and some fowl to keep the paintings 'alive' while waiting for the next flower to bloom.

They are quite astonishingly detailed paintings and you do need to look at them carefully. I've been to the exhibition three times now and appreciate it more with each visit. It's open for another few weeks so take a look if you can - it's quite small and in one room so it won't take a lot of time but it's nice to have the paintings grouped together as they are.

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