Art of Floristry – Part 1

History of Flowers

In this article, we will be learning about the origins of flowers and their presence in human history. We’ll explore the records of human interaction with these exquisite blooms. These reach all the way back from the Paleolithic era to modern times.

The next section of this article probes into flowers as art subjects in ancient history. We also go over the influence they had as muses for artists of all kinds.

Last, we’ll delve into a list of the most popular flowers and learn the stories behind their names!

Interested in a formal course? Want to get certified as an expert on all things floral? We encourage you to look into organizations that offer programs in floristry, such as:

  • American Institute of Floral Designers (www.aifd.org)
  • Society of American Florists (www.safnow.org)
  • American Floral Endowment (www.endowment.org)

Flowers through Human History

day lillies

How far back are flowers documented in human history? Have they always been diverse? How diverse? How did humans identify and use them in early history?

These are only a few of the things people wonder about flowers. Here is a list of answers to some of the most relevant inquiries about flowers as recorded in history!

Have flowers always existed? Since when?

Yes, they have. Archaeologists have dug deep to find out when flowers first appeared. Using modern technology over time, they uncovered flower fossils. With these, they assessed that flowers have been around since the prehistoric period. Their earliest estimate is around the Paleolithic age, about 93 million years ago.

Were flowers always as diverse as they are now? Or did that develop over time with human intervention?

Today, there are around 270,000 species of flowers! This number continues to grow with time and scientific innovations.

As for the evolution of their varieties, records only go back to about 150 years. History shows that only 125,000 species already existed.

Are there flowers that have been here through early history?

Plants like magnolias and herbs go back to 120 million years old. This time allowed them to grow into their forms today.

Experts presume that flowering plants have been around for around 146 million years.

How did humans identify them? Did they use them in their day-to-day lives and regimen?

There is no specified record of how humans found flowers and plants. But there’s data on the part of flowers in the daily life of humans in early history!

For instance, placing flowers on graves has been a tradition long before current times.

Different forms of art have also used florals both as main subjects and background details. From music, literature, and sculpture, people have used flowers to express themselves. Now we see how blooms have always perked up lives and made occasions more precious.

We’ll discover more on flowers in the art below, so keep reading!

Flowers as Art Subjects in Ancient History

From Ancient Egypt to modern pop art, flowers have influenced masterpieces all through history. Popular works with flowers vary from clay pots to still-life paintings. Its portrayal has been vital in producing several art forms and mediums.

In fact, flowers as artists’ muse in history is a course in art studies programs. This only proves how important blooms are in art!

Here, we’ll go over the influence that flowers have on different periods in art history. We’ll figure out what makes them so alluring to artists and audiences alike.

The lotus flower is one of the most esteemed subjects in Ancient Egyptian art. This is due to its symbolic meaning in their religious myths. It was often represented in paintings, amulets, ceramics, and other artworks. Evidence also points to the use of blossoms as jewellery for the royal court

Rameses Great OfferingKnight at Montacute

 

 

 

Left: “Knight at Montacute” (ca. 1600s), from Fleur de Lys Tapestries
Right: “Rameses’ Great Offering”, from Google Images

 

 

 

In medieval times, tapestries became prominent as artworks. This gave way to using flowers as backdrops for various types of scenery.

It later birthed the form of millefleur or a “thousand flowers”. These tapestries had duplicating patterns of stunning florals stitched on it.

Artists from the Renaissance also used flowers in their myth-inspired paintings. Other painters took flowers as a prime focus in their work. They created still-life paintings of fresh blooms and intricate bouquets.

Left: Jacob Vosmaer, “A Vase With Flowers” (ca. 1613), from Met Museum;
Right: Claude Monet, “Water Lilies” (1922), from Google Art Project

 

The Impressionist and Fauvism movements also involved the use of flowers in art. Flowers often served as the subject of an indoor scene with a person or two beside it. Fauvism accented this using vivid colors. Other times, flowers were either the focus of the artwork or the backdrop of the scene.

Left: Jeff Koons, “Puppy” (1995),  from JIPO Photographies;
Right: Andy Warhol, “Flowers” (1970), from Andy Warhol Art Painting

Today, flowers remain a popular muse among artists through pop art and modern 3D art.

Pop art imagines plain everyday objects in a different light and color. 3D artists often use flowers to build a sculpture of another figure. They also pay tribute to art from the Renaissance and Ancient Egypt.

Flower Names and their Origins

Left: From Dreamstime, Right: From Life is Beautiful

Have you ever thought about where roses and calla lilies got their names from? Look no further! Here is a brief list of beloved flowers and the story behind their names.

Carnation

Believed to come from the Greek word carnis (” flesh”), pertaining to its original color. Also thought to come from corone (” flower garlands”). This is because they were first used in ceremonial crowns.

Dandelion

First called “lion’s tooth” because of the petals’ likeness to a lion’s sharp teeth. The French translation “dent-de-lion” later changed into the English dandelion.

Daffodil

In Greek mythology, flowers called “asphodel” covered Elysian fields. Adapting the first d in the name, later on, it translated to the modern daffodil.

Daisy

Born from Old English poetics, daisies are an advanced variation of the phrase “day’s eye”.

Holly

Called the “Holly Tree”. Later known as “holly.” Medieval monks thought it would guard them against evil and lightning.

Lily

From the Latin word Lilium, from “lily of the valley”. This is because it was often seen in valleys.

Orchid

From the Greek word orchis, “testicle”. Greeks believed if pregnant women ate these, their unborn child would become a boy.

Rose

From the Spanish and Italian rosa. Used to name red flowers.

REFERENCES

https://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/miscellaneous/flowers-and-history

https://www.flowermonthclub.com/flower-history

https://mymodernmet.com/flower-art-history/

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/how-flowers-got-their-names-17576