Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Flower Arrangement That Brings a Renoir Landscape to Life

The Inspiration: ‘Pathway Through High Grass’ (detail),
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 
Photo: The Art Archive/Alfredo Dagli Orti/Art Resource, NY. 

The Arrangement: Allium, ranunculus and other spring flora
evoke the mood of ‘Pathway Through High Grass,’
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Vintage Glass Bottles,
similar styles available at westelm.com. Photo by
Stephen Kent Johnson for WSJ, Flower Styling by Lindsey Taylor,
Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart.
By Lindsey Taylor          

As much as I love a quaintly snowbound winter, I’m more than ready for Mother Nature to turn up the color dial—ready for spring’s fresh greens, for bulbs of blue and purple poking their heads up, followed by early white blossoms of star magnolias and the yellows of witch hazel and cornus mas. Don’t get me wrong: The thick cover of white that surrounds my house is lovely, but right now, it’s as if I am living in a blank gessoed canvas that’s waiting for its brush strokes.

To quell my restlessness, I turned to the Impressionistic landscapes of French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), who, with his contemporaries, was considered radical for working outside, “en plein-air,” documenting idyllic scenes found in nature. The piece that truly woke me up from my hibernation was “Pathway Through High Grass,” painted between 1876 and 1877, which depicts a pair of figures—one carrying an orange parasol—navigating a trail through a green and yellow meadow. For this month’s arrangement, I attempted to re-create the painting’s dashed-off feeling using a spring palette of flowers.

I casually clustered eight vintage glass bottles, collected from flea markets over the years, to channel Renoir’s unlabored approach. An ode to spring needn’t feel large and important the way a sprawling, massed arrangement in a single, grander vase might. To me, spring is really about savoring fleeting moments—and the interplay of the bottles’ colors in the light captured that.

I chose daffodils, fritillaria, hyacinths, muscari and allium to parallel Renoir’s field of grass with its pops of white, periwinkle and purple. Chartreuse viburnum blossoms and blooming white spirea—its leaves echoing the bottles’ hues—brought the canvas’s yellows and greens to life.

For the final brush stroke, I added two bright-orange ranunculus to mimic the flowers in the painting’s foreground and match the parasol that frames the central wanderer. Fancy taking a stroll in this verdant landscape? I’m ready.

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