Courtesy of VMFA
Vincent Van Gogh's "Bowl with Zinnias and other Flowers," 1886. (from the National Gallery of Canada)
Timed to complement nature’s emergence from winter’s grip — just as forsythias are blooming — the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents “Van Gogh, Manet and Matisse: The Art of the Flower,” March 21 to June 21. This bouquet of work features 65 paintings by more than 30 artists spanning some 300 years.
The hyper-detailed 18th-century creations of French painter Anne Vallayer-Coster and Belgian artist Jan Frans van Dael are so realistically lush, they lack only a trace scent. But in Henri Fantin-Latour’s 1889 Chrysanthemums, the plucked flowers are brilliant though sagging; a stem fallen to the table appears as though it collapsed from the exhaustion of trying to stay pretty.
Painting during his last days in the summer of 1890, Vincent van Gogh rendered Vase of Flowers in a stark, quick manner. Then come wild and vivid 20th-century interpretations by Odilon Redon, and in Henri Matisse’s Bouquet, painted when World War I was devouring fields and forests, the flowers seem to be trumpeting for life. Matisse is more reflective by 1924 in Still Life with Pascal’s “Pensées,” where the vase by a lace curtain shares the stage with a cup and saucer and the philosopher’s book. As Pascal says, “The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it.” $15. 204-2704 or vmfa.museum.