Blooming marvellous: Compton Verney displays masterpieces of Dutch flower painting from the National Gallery

In partnership with the National Gallery, London, Compton Verney, the award-winning gallery, based in a Georgian mansion amidst 120 acres of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown parkland in Warwickshire, UK, is delighted to host an exquisite exhibition exploring the development of Dutch flower painting from its beginnings in the early 17th century to its blossoming in the late 18th century.
Open until 15 January 2023, Dutch Flowers is an exciting, new touring exhibition which is part of the National Gallery’s initiative to share highlights of its collection with regional galleries and museums across the UK. It originally opened in Trafalgar Square in 2016, to great critical acclaim.
From late October, visitors to Compton Verney in Warwickshire will be able to enjoy ten masterpieces of the genre, with nine paintings on loan from the National Gallery and another from a private collection. Dutch Flowers examines the origins of Northern European flower painting, the height of its popularity in the Dutch Golden Age and its final flowering in the late 18th century.

At the turn of the 17th century, Netherlandish artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder were among the first to produce paintings that exclusively depicted flowers. The sudden emergence of this genre was undoubtedly linked to the development of scientific interest in botany and horticulture. This period saw the establishment of botanical gardens in the Netherlands as well as a booming international trade in exotic cultivars. By the 1630s speculative prices for the most coveted bulbs and flowering plants had reached spectacular heights – the so-called ‘Tulipmania’. Although prices soon crashed, the Dutch enchantment with flowers endured.
The earliest flower paintings feature flat, symmetrical arrangements comprising flowers from different seasons. Over the course of the 17th century, bouquets become more relaxed, with symmetrical rhythms and a willingness to overlap even the most expensive flowers to create a more natural sense of depth. By the end of the following century, flower paintings were considered largely decorative, with a lighter palette more in keeping with ‘modern’ tastes. Visitors to the exhibition at Compton Verney will have the rare opportunity to examine the flower paintings in detail, to appreciate the stylistic and technical characteristics of each artist, which features some of the finest examples of Dutch flower painting by leading artists of the form, including Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Huysum.

The exhibition at Compton Verney will be supplemented by a final gallery, ‘Listening to Flowers’, which will feature work by female contemporary sonic artists produced in response to the paintings in the exhibition.
Dr Amy Orrock, Senior Curator at Compton Verney says: “We are delighted to be able to show these exquisite paintings at Compton Verney. Our creative programme regularly explores links between humans and the natural world, and the new commissions that are being developed for this show will encourage visitors to think more deeply about the pictures on display and about our connection to nature today.”
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery said, “The exhibition is an opportunity to admire the exquisite skill of Dutch flower painters over a period of nearly 200 years, from 1609 to 1789. They are paintings of astounding quality and beauty, often rich in symbolism and historic interest.”
He added: “The National Gallery is a resource for the people of this country for learning, enjoyment and well-being, and this exhibition is just one part of a much wider and longstanding programme of national activity that honours our commitment to sharing our paintings with as many people as possible.”


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