Flowers in a Glass Bowl

by Rachel Ruysch

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Artist Statement

Rachel Ruysch was perfectly situated for a predisposition for flowers. Her father was a renowned scientist and botanist, whose samples Ruysch used as drawing practice. She grew up in Amsterdam shortly after the end of tulip mania. A growing merchant class was beginning to appreciate the flower not for herbal or medicinal purposes, but purely for its beauty and fragrance. So it’s no surprise that flowers ended up a lifelong subject for the painter.

Ruysch’s contemporaries tended to paint tightly focused floral still-lifes, with a clear outline of the entire bouquet and vessel. Ruysch, however, developed a style of her own: lavish and full, her bouquets would spread out spontaneously, filling the frame, woven through with vines, insects, and shells. What seemed so wild and natural was in fact a careful combination of multiple studies.

The blossoms featured in Flowers in a Glass Bowl are of many different varieties from all over the globe, and they do not bloom at the same time of year. It is highly likely that Ruysch would have had to study the flowers individually, creating sketches to work from, so when she was ready to paint she could combine all sorts of unlikely bedfellows into her lush arrangements. Inspired in part by her father’s work, as well as her many years of practice, Ruysch’s flowers are painted in such close detail they could almost be scientific renderings. This careful attention is part of what gained Ruysch international renown in her time.

As modern-day viewers, we may look at Ruysch’s floral work as simply beautiful bouquets. They’re beautiful indeed, but to gain further insight it is important to delve into how her works were viewed by her peers. In her time, certain flowers would have been easily recognized as references to Christianity. The blue morning glories at the bottom left and right of this arrangement symbolized the Resurrection. Morning glories open at dawn — Jesus coming back from the dead at sunrise.

While those flowers are freshly opened, it’s also important to note that other items in the bouquet are less than fresh, and that’s on purpose. Leaves starting to spot, a background tulip slowly turning brown: these all represent death. Death is a part of life, Ruysch seems to say with this inclusion. Beauty isn’t everlasting. And yet, her contemporary viewers would have found hope in the striking blues of the morning glory, in resurrection and new life. These deeper layers of meaning allow us to see the value beyond the work’s ornamental beauty.

Why We Love It

Ruysch’s paintings have an exhilarating sense of spontaneity about them, but this edition (like her other work) is actually a carefully considered composition, which makes that wild vibe all the more impressive. The dizzying variety of blossoms featured in Flowers in a Glass Bowl are native to different areas all around the globe, and bloom at different times of the year. Ipso facto, it’s highly likely they never met in real life. Ruysch probably studied the flowers in this piece — and many of her other still lifes — individually, referring to her sketches when she began painting so she could combine all sorts of unlikely bedfellows into one lush arrangement. And though the appearance of a few slumped, fading flowers smacks of a familiarly realistic mortality, these were examined elements too. Flowers in a Glass Bowlis a fantasy flower arrangement with an enigmatically earthy appeal ... Read more on the blog!

Details

+ Museum quality: archival inks, 100% cotton rag paper unless noted
+ Signed + numbered certificate of authenticity included
+ Handcrafted custom-framing is available

Our quoted dimensions are for the size of paper containing the images, not the printed image itself. We do not alter the aspect ratio, nor do we crop or resize the artists’ originals. All of our prints have a minimum border of .5 inches to allow for framing.

Medium:

Museo Portfolio Rag

Rachel Ruysch

Rachel Ruysch had an extensive and successful painting career that spanned over six decades, making her the best documented female painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Ruysch was born in June 1664 to Maria Post and Frederik Ruysch. Her father was a well-known scientist, botanist, and professor of anatomy. He had an impressive collection of scientific samples which Ruysch used to practice her drawing skills. At age 15, she was apprenticed to painter Willem van Aelst. In addition to perfecting her painting technique, he taught her how to arrange bouquets to look more wild and less formal, later a signature... Read More
in her flower paintings. By the time Aelst died in 1683, Ruysch was selling her own signed works. Ruysch was part of a movement that recognized and created work for the growing market of the merchant class. Ten years later, Ruysch married fellow painter Juriaen Pool, with whom she had ten children. Motherhood and marriage didn’t stop her from continuing to paint and produce commissioned work. From 1708 to 1716, she was court painter to the Elector Palatine in Düsseldorf. She and her family resettled in Amsterdam in 1716, where Ruysch painted at a remarkably prolific rate until she turned eighty-three. At her peak, Ruysch was so popular that she was able to fetch a price double that of Rembrandt’s sales. Though she gained international renown in her lifetime, it is likely her choice of subject matter — and doubtlessly, her gender — led to her work being overlooked by many later critics, and less established in the art history canon than it deserved.
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