An article in the May 21, 2017, New York Times Style Magazine by Charlotte DiCarcaci, mentions for Fall, designers “have embraced Morris’s (William Morris) florid flora-on-flora ethos with a vengeance” inspired by the influences of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, especially Rosetti and the architectural talent of Philip Webb. Philip Webb, a major player in the Arts & Crafts movement built the infamous Red House where Morris combined floral wallpapers and textiles influencing 19th-century aesthetics. After reading the short two paragraph article in the New York Times Style Magazine, I wanted to know a little bit more about Morris’s Red House and its floral aesthetic. The exercise prompted me to take stock in the many floral bouquets found in my fabric collection, Liberty cotton, Italian cotton and Swiss.
At the same time, I reminisced about one of my favorite French Symbolist painters Odilon Redon, (b. April 22, 1840, Bordeaux France, d. July 6 1916, Paris France) and his Ophelia, 1900-1905.
Along the way, I discovered British painter, Sir John Everett Millais (b. June 8, 1829, Southhampton, UK, d. August 13, 1896, Kensington, London, UK). Millais was identified with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It took Millais, eleven hours a day, six days a week for a five month period to paint his Ophelia, 1851-1852. According to my limited research, this painting detailed the flora and landscape along the banks of the Hogsmill River in Surrey near Tolworth. In fact, Barbara Webb, a resident of Old Malden solved the mystery location of the painting. The following is an interesting article detailing the event. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/7863332/Mystery-of-location-of-Millais-Ophelia-solved.html
I find the connection between William Shakeseare’s description of Ophelia’s garland and the “language of flowers” or sometimes called floriography interesting. The red poppy found in Millais’s Ophelia symbolizes sleep and death.
The language of flowers is a means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers. During the Victorian Era, messages were encoded in bouquets. An online article by Romie Stott, dated August 15, 2016, compares Victorian flower language as a pre-digital version of emoji. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-flowerobsessed-victorians-encoded-messages-in-bouquets
Here are some recent photographs I captured while in San Francisco at the Conservatory of Flowers.