Making Arrangements

April showers bring May flowers. What does June bring? The final days of VMFA’s current blockbuster exhibition, VanGogh, Manet and Matisse: The Art of the Flower.


With every big show the museum gets, my parental (and docent) heart goes extra pitty-pat. I envision multiple visits with my twins in-tow, basking in the rare chance to see pieces that would otherwise require Eurorail passes and weeks of vacation to view. This exhibition in particular features works from over forty museums and private collections, all focusing on a single subject matter: flowers.

You have just a few days left, no matter the age of your child(-ren), take them!

Flowers conveyed with photographic accuracy contrast with more painterly depicted bouquets. No matter the artistic preference, everyone will find a piece that captures his or her eye.

Mid-way through the galleries, you’ll find an area well-stocked with chairs, colored pencils, paper, and a stunning, centrally located, live bouquet. No doubt most visitors, inspired by the first few rooms of luscious paintings, will want to take a seat and create their own work of art. Afterward, your work can be displayed within feet of some of most-renowned artists of all time within that special, creative space.


My daughter, Sarah’s favorite piece was “Bouquet of Lilies and Roses in a Basket on Chiffonier” by Antoine Berjon, painted in 1814. (If she plans to see it again in the future, she’ll need to travel to The Louvre in Paris!)
Berjon“I like how realistically the artist painted the image. The most realistic aspect of the painting is the flower petals. They are painted very precisely; you cannot even see the brushstrokes. Berjon’s choice of color caught my eye, especially the blush pink. The color of the petals is what drew me in, because the pink was the only bright color he used—the other colors were more neutral colors—the artist wanted our eyes to go right to those flowers.”

Deciding upon a favorite is nearly impossible, but with each visit, I’ve gravitated to “Flowers in a Crystal Vase” by Edouard Manet, painted c. 1882.
MAnetThe sketchy, rapidly applied brushstrokes suggest rather than articulate the details. Personal memories of the flowers’ appearance draw the viewer in. Manet was near the end of his life and largely bedridden at the time he painted this intimate piece. In all likelihood, this painting was given as a gift to one of his caring visitors—visitors often brought flowers to cheer the ailing, aging Manet.

Why don’t YOU and your kids go pick YOUR favorite posies?

Tell us all about your impressions in the comments!
[*No photography is permitted in the exhibition. Thankfully, the catalog images will help us recall the inimitable experience of seeing these works in person.]
CatalogPlease click here for exhibition hours and ticket prices and ENJOY!