It is a bittersweet feeling, leaving Italy after almost six incredible weeks here. I’m not going home, but starting a whole new adventure in new countries with new people. One of the most exciting things about visiting new countries, for me, is seeing the famous art from each. After taking Dr. Starman’s course, and learning about the importance of horticulture in art, I will be looking at paintings with new eyes.
Looking at horticulture in art gives us historical insight on so many subjects including the types of plants that were found in certain regions, garden styles, gardening techniques, etc. In the last few weeks we have seen art in the form of frescos, architecture, paintings, drawings and sculpture in every city that we have visited. Different types of plants are also used symbolically in art, which is what has interested me the most when visiting museums and churches on this trip.
Among others, I am visiting Vienna, Austria this summer; the birthplace of my favorite artist is Gustav Klimt. Klimt was an artist from the late 1800s and early 1900s and one of the most important artists from the Art Nouveau and Symbolist movements. His art contains many symbolic elements but one of the most recurring symbols that he used was flowers. I am most excited to see his painting “The Kiss” from 1908 which hangs in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. I have always loved this piece. I even recreated it on a ceiling tile for my school as my legacy when I was in 8th grade. This year I found out that the piece was inspired in part by a visit Klimt made to Venice.
The painting is oil on canvas depicting a man and woman in a passionate embrace. The figures are locked together and a shimmery flat gold-leaf background surrounds them. They stand on a lush bed of grass carpeted with flowers. In this painting, the man wears inorganic dark colored shapes to represent masculinity. The woman, in contrast, is covered in flowers, symbolic of her femininity. She kneels on a carpet of flowers similar to the ones she wears, linking her to mother nature.
Klimt uses flowers in many of his paintings, and sometimes plants are the main subjects of his work. “The Tree of Life” and “The Sunflower” are two famous examples of this. Klimt isn’t the only one, either. Art and horticulture are inseparable. There are so many important works of art throughout history that depict flowers, trees, and entire landscapes. Art would be bland without it. I’ll be keeping an eye out from now on for the plants that I’ve learned about, in the art that I see.