In the time of the Romans flowers were seen as a symbol of pride and beauty. Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and garden plants, was honored with a day of festivities and floral wreaths were awarded to victorious competitors in festival games. Venus was thought to be the goodness of roses. Cleopatra often had her living quarters scattered with rose petals with the notion that roses would aid her romantic aspirations. The Romans also believed that roses, when used appropriately, stopped wrinkles and was used to counteract the effects of imbibing to much wine. Wen Roman armies would return from battles, they were showered by the women with rose petals.
Pompeii also holds historical findings of flowers being used in art. In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompeii in volcanic ash. After many years, a fresco style painting was discovered and contained in the painting were depictions of flowers and shrubbery.
Between 1200 and 1400 AD, flowers became a center point in Gothic ear art. Flowers were seen as symbols of a person’s characteristics and were also used to show status among the different sects of people. The flowers used in this era also were used to symbolize religion. The red rose was seen as the blood of Christ while a white lily was used for Mary holy mother.
The use of flowers in art broadly expanded and became a traditional symbol in many paintings of the 17th century when the Dutch began to utilize them. To the Dutch, flowers often represented stages of life. Buds to blooms to wilted petals symbolized the circle of life. They were also known to input butterflies into their artwork to symbolize the resurrection of Christ. If you look closely at some of these paintings, you can also notice that the Dutch painted bugs and insects into the flowers. These critters were seen as life happening and also represented the decay of man into death.
By the 18th century, the French revolutionized the way that flowers were used in paintings by doing still life of the blooms. They were not as concerned as the Dutch in symbolism of the flowers as they were depicting the current life and state of the flora. Flowers in these early French paintings were bright and vibrant, full blooms with pleasing settings.
Flower artwork as also long been associated with certain artists. Water lilies were famously painted by Monet, a man who believed that there were healing powers in all flowers, but that the lily held the most potent healing effects. Georgia O’Keefe, though widely criticized for her paintings, is known for her artwork of calla lilies that some say represented the sensual nature of a woman. Sunflowers were the main floral staple of master painter Vincent Van Gogh.