The flowers that bloomed in the spring – tra la – are covering the walls this summer, when the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art presents its first ever group show of floral paintings, featuring Mark English, Robert Weatherford, and Karen Kokjer Wilcox. The exhibition of their work, 20 paintings in all, opens Thursday, July 12, 5:30 – 7: 30 p.m., with Weatherford and Kokjer in attendance.
The great tradition of flower painting was in full bloom in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the great Dutch painters treated florals with awe and excitement. Those images, however, are really riffs on mortality, depicting as they did fallen leaves, munched and torn petals. Not to put too fine a point on it, every flower – human or otherwise – is meant to reproduce before it falls to the ground and rots. In any case, their heyday is short-lived.
The tradition of floral painting rolled on into the 19th century, with Van Gogh’s world famous sunflowers, but he also made gorgeous images of irises in the garden of Saint-Paul de Mausole after he arrived in the asylum. (Van Gogh called his irises a “study,” but they sold at auction in 1987 for $54 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting at the time.)
Then there was Monet, who produced 250 images of waterlilies from the garden of his home at Giverny. Bonnard painted anemone; Matisse, pansies.
In the 20th century, iconic artist Georgia O’Keefe rendered the faces of flowers in oils, up close and personal.
Which brings us up to date with the florals on display at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.
Mark English is the most lauded illustrator in the history of the Society of Illustrators. He has been one of the leading illustrators in the U.S. and abroad for four decades. His unique style is easily recognizable in such publications as McCalls, Time, Sports Illustrated, Redbook, Atlantic Monthly, and others. He returns to Telluride Gallery after participating in its February HorseShow, also a group exhibition. Known for his dreamy renditions of all subject matters, notably landscapes, the 80-year-old painter, who works daily, currently uses collage and paint elements to create emotional works known to bring collectors and fans back again and again.
Robert Weatherford, a very popular and highly trained painting instructor and longtime Telluride artist, is known for his intricate and glaze-layered paintings of floral arrangements. The artist states:
“An eternal theme, flowers in a vase plunges me into wonder at nature’s generosity. We expect to feel awe watching a sunset. But flowers in a vase is something that catches us as we cross a room. It’s a glory that startles us in the moment of forgetfulness. Floral still-lifes, as well as everyday flowers in a vase, are a shrine to nature.”
Robert brings nine new large and vibrant floral paintings to this show.
Karen Kokjer Wilcox, another longtime and experienced Telluride painter, has been “drawing fervently since the age of five.” The artist, who returns to committed painting after a decade of child rearing and family life, says this:
“I believe it is our duty as artists to serve as facilitators for this art energy and bring its brilliance to the public.”
Her subject matter, ranging from people, animals and landscapes to still-lifes and abstractions, is selected for its light and color potential.