The bouquets gradually became more varied. I was buying more flowers, different kinds of flowers. Lilacs were still blooming out in the yard so those got added to the store bought flowers. The blue cloth is still there, but now it creates a lower horizon, and a yellow background lies behind most of the picture.
I switched from the jade colored vase to clear glass. It looks like a jar. I have often favored simple jars for holding flowers. I like the way the stems look through the glass. It would be a theme of some of the subsequent pictures, the ones that come after this one.
I’m not posting the bouquets in order, though. After so many years I have no recollection of the order in which I painted them. I only know that the busier ones came later in the sequence.
I was already someone who sought to find the motif through several variations of a subject. Another bouquet is accompanied by four lemons. (Other pictures had two lemons.) The yellow lemons offer a visual foil to the violet lilacs.
This bouquet has other flowers besides lilacs — chrysanthemums (symbolic of long life) with also a single carnation, and possibly also a tea rose. The whole bouquet sits once again on the pale blue cloth now in front of the white wall.
I was learning from looking at Van Gogh’s paintings so the blue cloth has swirls of brushstrokes in waves creating shadows. All the forms are delineated, as in a drawing that has been colored.
The blossoms are heavier than in the other painting of the same theme, and they are more abundant. This horizontal spreading out of the flowers was something I loved — which I still love — and it reminds me of the shape of a tree. In this case the lilacs are also a little bit tree-like in the expressive, transparent shadow they cast. Once again, there are two lemons.
The color of the background wall was kind of a big deal in my family when I was growing up. I can’t recall the color name. But we liked it as an interior wall color. It was almost our official living room color. By the time this picture was painted my parents had moved to another state where they retired. I stayed behind. And the walls of the living room were still covered with the official hue.
The light is interior light. You might notice that it’s warm on the top of the leaves. Nevertheless, the shadows are transparent. Outdoor light might have been coming into the room too. I painted this so long ago that I don’t remember.
There were several bouquets that I set up on the same pale blue cloth. Lemons form a counterpoint in them, their yellow providing chromatic opposition to the violet of the lilacs. I remember that I liked describing the forms of the lemons with strong outlines. With these I was particularly pleased because they look solid.
You can see some of the warmth of the interior light in the blue cloth too. A yellowish cast reflects off the blue in places.
I felt like these flowers have almost a personality. They seem cheerful. Plural. Definitely an ensemble of happy lilacs. The same bush that produced these lilacs finished blooming only a day or so ago. So many years later!
Sometime or other in the early 1990s I made a group of flower paintings. Each was painted in one session. Lemons of varying quantity offered a counterpoint to the violet of the lilacs. This one has a bouquet sitting on the white enamel top of the stove. To the right the burners are visible with black grill patterns.
The colors of the pictures are so different from the way I use color now, and yet looking back at them, I can see how they created a path to my present.
Some of the organization seems almost Oriental to me in the angular simplicity, the outlined forms, in perspective that tips forward, and in the overt use of negative spaces. I was very affected by the paintings of Van Gogh at the time so I probably got the Asian influence through him. Like many the artists of his generation active in France during the 19th century, he loved Japanese prints.
If I sound like I’m describing someone else’s painting, well in a sense I am. The painting feels that way. Only slowly do the memories return.