This is one of Courbet's most beautiful flower still lifes. He emphasizes the brilliant colours of the flowers – peonies, roses, tulips, lilac, holly, bleeding hearts, a cyclamen, asters, a dahlia, snapdragon, love-in-a-mist and saxifrage – by setting them against a dark background. These flowers belong to all four seasons of the year. Even in a conservatory they could not be made to bloom at the same time. The artist who declared that one must work from nature – 'show me an angel and I will paint one' – must have worked from memory!
Such flower still lifes also gave Courbet the chance to explore abstract arrangements of colour, shape, pattern and ornament. Here the close focus of the picture, the multiplicity of forms and the brilliant colour of the blooms, against a simple dark ground, show his knowledge of 17th-century Dutch precedents. The naturalism of Courbet's painting paves the way for flower paintings by Manet, Degas and Cézanne.
Where to see this painting?
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G3 8AG
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.