Flowers in Art: Great American Flower Painters

August 4, 2016 / Blooms Today

While there have to be almost as many artists who paint flowers as they are kinds of flowers, only three Americans grace the list of top flower artists in the world. The remaining 16 are European.

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Georgia O’Keeffe [1887-1986, also spelled Gegorgia] was born on a farm in Wisconsin which she left at the age of 18 to pursue art studies in Chicago. She was a pioneer in American modernism who spent much of her last 40 years in New Mexico where she captured landscape and flowers on her canvases. She is credited as well with many city landscape paintings. While she painted intricate details of morning glories, sunflowers petunias and more, she may be most well-known not only for the poppy, but also for her unusual placement of one large flower bloom on a canvas.


Georgia-OKeefeNobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time – and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.
If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.


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Maria Oakey Dewing [1845-1927] was a native New Yorker who published books on etiquette and housekeeping prior to marrying a prominent figure painter. They spent summers for two decades at a New Hampshire art colony. Here they cultivated gardens, and she experimented with plants and flower combinations, which later she would paint from a gardener’s eye view. She painted women with great detail in the clothing and once remarked that painting flowers required “a long apprenticeship in the garden.” Having always felt inferior to her husband, the year she died she wrote in a letter:

I have hardly touched any achievement. I dreamed of groups and figures in big landscapes and I still see them.

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Martin Johnson Heade [1819-1904] entered the world in Bucks County, PA and pursued art training and education as well as embarking on extensive travel and study in Europe and South America. By age 20, he had painted his first portraits, and nearly 20 years later switched to landscapes, flowers and hummingbirds. He may best be known for his paintings of New England salt marshes, but he stands above the crowd for his orchids and depiction of magnolia flowers on velvet, as well as small to medium vases of flowers resting on a cloth. His “Yellow Daisies in a Brown Bowl” is especially beautiful for its simplicity and intricacy in detail.

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By Joanne M. Anderson

Photo Credit:

Photographer skeeze offered the photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer AveryPhotography offered the photograph of Rose Close Up under a Standard License on iStock

Photographer Melissa Carroll offered the photograph of Sweet Georgia under a Standard License on iStock

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