Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tulips and painters

click photo to enlarge
I've always liked tulips. As a child I found their distinctive, pointed buds that opened into big, bright, goblet-shaped flowers holding large stamens and anthers, fascinating, and quite different from most of the other flowers that I saw.

As I got older I began to notice that many painters were enchanted by the flower too, some depicting it in its bold, strong upright form, and others in its more languid, drooping, "past its best" condition. The English painter, David Hockney (1937- ), frequently includes the flowers in interiors and portraits. A particular favourite of mine is his portrait of his parents that has a vase of tulips on a green cabinet. In a different style is his lithograph, "Pretty Tulips", where the flowers are drooping down towards the surface of a glass table. The Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), turned to painting in later life, and did some very individual watercolours of flowers, including tulips. His "Yellow Tulips" (c.1922-24) shows the curve of the flowers against an angular, modern-looking backdrop, with their leaves characteristically flopping over the edge of the blue vase that holds them. Seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish painters frequently included tulips in their "bouquet paintings", often giving them prominent positions, especially if they had petals marked attractively by a tulip virus. "Flowers in a Glass Vase" by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621) exemplifies this style of painting.

Last year I took a few photographs of my tulips, both in situ, and in a vase. The other day, as the blooms started to show in the garden I thought I'd try for a shot that showed off the thrusting vitality of these flowers as they each seek their share of the space and light above them. A "letterbox crop" seemed to concentrate on and show off these characteristics better than the full-frame shot, so that is how I present the image.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On