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Eugene Delacroix : “Basket of Flowers” (1848-1849)

Archival Inkjet on Matte Finish Fine Art Paper

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On February 6th, 1849, Eugène Delacroix wrote to his friend Constant Dutilleux of the flower paintings he was preparing for the Salon of that year: “I have tried to fashion pieces of nature such as they present themselves to us in gardens, simply by bringing together, within the same frame and in a highly unlikely manner, the greatest possible variety of flowers.” Of the three canvases which remain of this series (two were withdrawn from the Salon and have since been lost), Basket of Flowers is certainly the most original. The Metropolitan Museum of Art identifies the flowers present within the painting as follows:

“At the left are elephant head amaranth, and beneath them are a variety of centaurea (perhaps cornflowers). Falling from the basket are dahlias, rudbeckias, daisies, nasturtiums, and roses. The arch is a tropical white morning glory or moonflower, which appears to be invading a shrub with flowers arranged in dense, flat clusters, possibly elderberry. A number of these species were introduced to Europe from India, Africa, and Central and South America beginning in the sixteenth century.”

In conceiving these works, Delacroix consulted with Adrien de Jussieu, head botanist at Paris’s Jardin des Plantes. His object, writes art curator Vincent Pomarède, was to establish himself as a master of subjects in every genre, and to revitalize the flower still life “by means of a kind of realism in which stylistic convention and decoration could serve the contemplation of nature — and not the reverse.”

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