Painterly Bouquets

Martha Stewart Weddings, Winter 2000

As vibrant as flowers from a Dutch master's canvas, this bouquet is a study in contrasts. Cool striped hosta leaves set off warm-colored roses, while spiky blue thistles play up the softness of every petal

Women holding flowers have always inspired painters. A garland, a wreath, or a bouquet enhances the model's femininity. Or is it the other way around? Give a woman an armful of blossoms, and the flowers become more beautiful. Such is the case at weddings, where everyone -- from the official portrait photographer standing behind his tripod to guests waving disposable cameras -- wants to capture forever a vision worthy of an artist: the bride and her bouquet.

A festive winter wedding hands you the perfect opportunity to create a painterly bouquet combining reds and greens or other rich colors of the season. Such flower arrangements can be reminiscent of a long line of masterpieces, extending from the Italian Renaissance to nineteenth-century France and beyond. But no floral images remain more inspiring than those painted in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. In those days, both portraits and still lifes depicted fanciful clusters of glowing flowers -- tulips, peonies, roses, irises -- made more vivid by the contrast of dramatic highlights and mysteriously dim backgrounds, an effect known as chiaroscuro, which means "clear-obscure" or "light-shade" in Italian.

You can use the same technique today when composing your bridal bouquet. Indeed, when you combine light and dark flowers, your bouquet acquires extraordinary depth and subtlety. If you also add unexpected foliage, twigs, berries, or buds, the result is both artful and natural. We invited event designer and flower artist Antony Todd to let his imagination run free with eight bouquets that pay homage to the Dutch masters.

Still Life
Arts and Nature
Cosmos Wreath
Closed Rosebuds
The Unexpected Touch
Radiant Surfaces
Brush Strokes


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