Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Required Reading: Lindsey Taylor’s ‘Art in Flower’


Required Reading: Lindsey Taylor’s ‘Art in Flower’

October 19, 2023

When garden designer Lindsey Taylor worked as an editor at Martha Stewart Living in the ’90s, one of her tasks was to create the floral arrangements for the desks of senior editors at the magazine. As a result she became the go-to arranger when a shoot required floral decoration. Not that her arrangements were anything like the pristine monocultures of the day (those tight, uniform bunches of perfect peonies or roses beloved by almost everyone during that decade). Her mantra, just like her key influence, the celebrated English floral designer Constance Spry, was “air, height, volume, rhythm.”

Later, from 2013 until 2022, she poured that experience into a monthly column, Flower School, for the Wall Street Journal, in which she created similarly free-wheeling, idiosyncratic designs, this time taking art as her inspiration. Now a selection of those columns has been made into a book, Art in Flower: Finding Inspiration in Art and Nature (Monacelli Press), in which familiar—and sometimes unfamiliar—works of art are translated into thought-provoking arrangements.

Art in Flower hits bookstores November 8.
Above: Art in Flower hits bookstores November 8.

“Each month I chose a work of art,” writes Lindsey in the introduction to her book. “Whether that was a painting, drawing, or sculpture, that mirrored the season in color, tone, imagery, and texture. And then I treated the whole endeavor like a game with a time limit.” Forty of these columns are arranged by season in the book, each with text explaining her thought process, choice of materials, containers, backdrop and a list of the flowers used. Her only rules are that the artwork would contain no floral arrangements, that the vessels were just as considered as the blooms themselves, and that the design did not “copy” art but took inspiration from it. The resulting compositions provoke the reader to not only consider the work of art more closely, but also to observe the flowers in a meditative way, too, and appreciate their forms, texture, colors. and beauty.

“Lindsey’s ingenuity in transfiguring a two-dimensional painting into a three- dimensional grouping of leaves, flowers, pods, and grasses, and the photographers’ in transforming it back into a two- dimensional image, were always a delight to witness,” says Deborah Needleman, in her foreword to the book. “Her interpretations are never literal mimicries in floral form; they possess an artistic integrity of their own. Through her imagination and artistry, Lindsey is able to amplify something of the essential spirit in each work. Starting with one art form, Lindsey expresses truths in another.”

Below, four particularly arresting pairings.

Floral arrangement photographs by Stephen Kent Johnson, from Art in Flower.

Inspired by Itō Shinsui

Above: Lindsay chanced upon Ito Shinsui’s Rain While the Sun Is Shining (1917) in the exhibition New Women for a New Age: Japanese Beauties 1890s-1930s at the Museum of fine Arts in Boston. A white anemone, gerberas, muscari, and ranunculus highlight elements of the drawing, such as her parasol or robe, while the elegant and graceful curve of a chocolate cosmos echoes the elegant curve of the subject’s neck. The ikebana inspired arrangement uses ceramic vessels from Marité Acosta with a single contrasting vessel hinting at the woman’s obi.
Above: Japanese artist Itō Shinsui’s Rain While the Sun Is Shining (1917), a woodblock print using ink on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Inspired by Julie Mehretu

Above: How to interpret the dynamic movement in Julie Mehretu’s epic canvas, Retopistics: A Renegade Evacuation? With wild dancing stems of course. Here Lindsey uses shades of blue from hyacinths, globe thistle, and muscari, all trimmed to different lengths, while shorter cuts of vivid orange tulips and pink carnations sit on the rim of the vessel along with a single vivid yellow ranunculus. The arrangement recreates the strong horizontality of the painting.
Above: American artist Julie Mehretu’s Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001) in ink and acrylic on canvas. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AR. Photograph by Julie Mehretu.

Inspired by James McNeill Whistler

Above: Keeping it simple with a limited palette and an emphasis on texture. This Whistler-inspired design plays on the artist’s pale, feminine canvas with a soft and creamy backdrop and vessels. A white hydrangea with the subtlest flush of pink takes center stage, echoing the gauzy layered silk of the sitter’s gown, while Australian waxflowers and maroon dahlias play supporting roles.
Above: For a winter arrangement, Lindsey turned to Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland (1871-1874) by the American artist James McNeill Whistler. Bequest of Henry Clay Frick, The Frick Collection, New York.

Inspired by Pablo Picasso

Above: This arrangement goes big on zing, inspired by Pablo Picasso’s The Red Armchair, but it started with the vase. “I’d also come across a white earthenware vessel, known as the Medusa vase, by ceramist Frances Palmer,” writes Lindsey. “The wriggly stripes she’d pinched into the clay and the looping handles recalled Picasso’s work in general and specifically the face in this painting, a canvas that portrayed the banishing of winter listlessness.” The vase is filled with purple anemones, yellow roses, red parrot tulips, orange kumquat cuttings with green leaves, deep plum ninebark, and nandina foliage which are used to mimic Picasso’s color-blocking cubism. To create depth, Lindsey tucked an additional sang de boeuf porcelain vase just behind with a single red tulip.
Above: A modernist masterpiece, The Red Armchair (1931) by Pablo Picasso.

See also:

(Visited 8,915 times, 4 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Product summary  

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation