Rose Paintings

Still life by Dutch master Ambrosius Bosschaert, 1573โ€“1621
Still life by Dutch master Ambrosius Bosschaert, 1573โ€“1621
Click image to see a larger size from the Google Art Project

Rose paintings have been popular for centuries. They are among the most common subjects in paintings and have been done by many famous artists around the world.

The first known example of a rose painting was found on the island of Crete. It dates back to 1500BC. It was not very common in the ancient world, with very few examples in Greek history and only a few examples in old Oriental times.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, or 1000AD or so, that the rose became more frequently painted. The period is sometimes referred to as the Romanesque period. From about 1150-1500, the Gothic Age, had roses used frequently in paintings for religion and church decorations. In the Catholic religion, it is a symbol of high honor.

A famous Italian painter, Sandro Botticelli, created one of his famous paintings called the Birth of Venus. It prominently shows roses “dripping” off of the Roman goddess, as they were her symbol. Many other famous Italian Renaissance painters, such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo, also used rose imagery in their paintings around this time.

In addition to Italy, British artists were also starting to use the rose It was in the mid-1400s that the rose became an official symbol of the royal family, so they were represently widely in portraits going forward.

Rose illustrators grew in popularity in the 18th and 19th century. They performed many prints using watercolor. Frenchmen like George Ehret and Pierre Joseph Redoute did much work painting numerous botanical gardens. Empress Josphine had Redoute illustrate most of her gardens in the early part of the 19th century. Ehret did much of his work in the 1700s. Another popular illustrator from this time is Mary Lawrence. She created one of the first books only on roses art.

It was in the 1800s that rose paintings really got popular with nearly all famous artists at the time. Edouard Manet, an Impressionist, used bold and sbstract techniques for his famous “Roses in a Vase”. Vincent Van Gogh used roses extensively as subjects for his Expressionist, and then later Impressionist painting. Claude Monet’s hugely popular paintings of the Giverny gardens are world renowned.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, another Impressionist, arguably used roses in more paintings than any other Impressionist. It was easily his most popular subject. Art appreciation is a very personal thing, and we all have differng tastes. Perhaps you will forgive me if I say I find painting like the Renoir below to be little more than unappealing spashes of color.

Renoir painting
Renoir painting

In more modern times, Georgia O’Keefe was a famous America painter with her unique Southwestern views on her abstracts. Flowers and roses were a common theme for her as well. Blue Rose with Skull was a popular painting that she created. You may not have enough money for an original Monet, but you can easily buy prints of these beautiful creations.