Dutch Flowers

There are only a couple of dozen paintings in this exhibition in Room 1 of the National Gallery but it’s worth devoting an hour of your life to them. The pictures, from the 17th and 18th centuries, begin with symmetrical arrangements then slowly blossom into the wild floral flights of fancy of Paulus van Brussel that make you wonder if the Dutch weren’t early European users of mescalin. For me, the highlight of the show comes halfway round the display. Flowers In A White Stone Vase, painted by Dirck de Bray in 1671, is a gorgeous jugful of black tulips, red and white chrysanthemums, blue periwinkles and red roses. In the shadow behind the vase is a bumble bee, while a tiny ladybird scurries across the marble mantle on which the bowl stands. The overall impression is hypnotic and deeply spiritual – and it epitomises the spellbinding allure of flower-painting. Catch this small but perfectly formed display before it closes on August 29.




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