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Sunday, 11 October 2009
“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” - Virgil
Seeing it was a beautiful Spring day today (complete with a Spring shower in the afternoon), I give you for Art Sunday, Redouté. Pierre Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) was one of the most famous flower painters of all time. He was born into a Flemish painters’ family, who earned a living by producing decorative and church paintings. He started painting at a young age. In 1782 he went to Paris, where he initially worked as a decorative painter at the “Theatre des Italiens”. In his spare time, he frequently drew in the Jardin du Roi. Here he caught the attention of the botanist Charles Louis L'Héritier, who encouraged him to produce anatomical studies, introduced him to dissection techniques and offered him free access to his botanical library and plant collection. Redouté contributed to L'Héritier’s publications, catching the eye of the flower painter Gérard von Spaendonck, who, together with other artists, produced drawings and paintings for the famous Vélins du Roi. Spaendonck recruited Redouté as a staff member, and he subsequently contributed over 500 paintings to this huge undertaking. An important aspect of this collaboration was that Redouté was introduced to Spaendonck's watercolor technique, by which he used to produce flower paintings with a bright transparency.
Finally, Marie-Antoinette appointed him as her court painter. Encounters with the royal family were, however, rare. During the 1790s, Redouté became one of the most popular flower painters. He perfected the colour stipple engraving technique, which he had learned during a stay in London and first applied it in his illustrations for de Candolle's work “Plantes Grasses”. From 1802 he published his “Liliacées”, in which he largely applied the technical possibilities of colour printing to the large and evenly coloured leaves and blossoms.
In 1805 he was appointed court and flower painter to the Empress Josephine. After she had been overthrown, he remained in close contact with the Bourbon royal family. From 1817 to 1824 he produced the work that was to become the peak of his success, “Les Roses” in an excellent edition by Firmin Didot. Each delivery of the finished colour copperplates, was received with a storm of enthusiasm, but in spite of his fame and his employment at court, he continued to attribute more importance to the scientific detail than to the effects of composition and colour seen in purely artistic flower paintings. From 1822 until he died, Redouté occupied a simple position as a painting teacher, succeeding Spaendonck, and often talked about his art in front of over 150 students in the large hall of the Buffon gallery.
The Redouté roses are fresh, delicate, beautifully drawn and with colours that are vibrant and crisp. If springtime had to have an artist, surely he would be one that she would consider. (Rosa gallica maheka from Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Les Roses, 1817-24)
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.