Reading List: Spring Flowers and Gardens

Book with a woman in a white head wrap adorned with leaves and holding flowers, next to a stack of books on a cart in front of a window

Monday, March 20, marks the first day of spring in 2023. In the New York City area, this means our streets, gardens, and parks are starting to bloom with the standard cast of seasonal flowers, including crocuses, daffodils, magnolias, cherry blossoms, and tulips. To ring in the spring, the Frick Art Reference Library presents a recommended reading list focused on flowers and gardens. These selections cover themes related to botany, scientific illustration, landscape architecture, as well as depictions of flowers in the visual arts through the ages.

The following books from our collection can be viewed in the reading room at our temporary home, Frick Madison. We are open by appointment and are free of charge to visitors ages thirteen or older. For those unable to visit our reading room, learn more about our complimentary document delivery service, which provides scans of up to twenty pages from items in our collections for registered researchers.

  1. The Painter’s Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight

    Edited by Sabine Schulze (2006)

    Discover four hundred botanical illustrations spanning the timeline of art history, including examples by several artists from the Frick’s permanent collection: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Peter Paul Rubens, Claude Monet, and Édouard Manet. This catalog was published to accompany the traveling exhibition titled Garden: Order, Inspiration, Happiness, held at the Städel Museum (2016–17) and Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (2017) in Germany.

    Book cover on a white shelf featuring artworks of flowers
  1. Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx

    Edited by Edward J. Sullivan and Joanna L. Groarke (2019)

    Learn about the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx with this catalog, published in conjunction with a 2019 exhibition of the same name at the New York Botanical Garden. Burle Marx is celebrated for his dynamic artworks, inventive landscapes, and advocacy for the environment. This publication features essays from botanists and art and architectural historians, and also includes a plant list from the exhibition.

    Book cover on a white shelf featuring a smiling man engulfed in huge green leaves
  1. Sun Gardens: Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins

    By Larry J. Schaaf (2018)

    Dating to the early nineteenth century, cyanotypes are a photographic printing process made with chemicals sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum, producing characteristic cyan-blue prints. Anna Atkins was an English botanist and early user of the cyanotype process. In 1843, she authored Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions—cited as the first book to contain photographs as illustrations—which utilized cyanotypes to properly record botanic specimens. This recent volume contains reproductions from Atkins’s groundbreaking publication and sheds new light on her life and work.

    Open spread of a book with images of cyanotype prints of plants
  1. Say it with Flowers!: Viennese Flower Painting from Waldmüller to Klimt

    Edited by Rolf H. Johannsen and Stella Rollig (2018)

    Images of flowers flourished during the nineteenth century in Austria, first during its Biedermeier period—epitomized in Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s landscapes and still lifes—and again by later modernist artists such as Gustav Klimt. The genre’s popularity in turn allowed women artists an entry into the male-dominated art world. The paintings richly illustrated in this catalog from a 2018 exhibition at Vienna’s Belvedere museum span the late 1700s to the early 1900s (with further examples from contemporary artists), including works by Olga Wisinger-Florian, Jan van Huysum, and Gerhard Richter.

    Open spread of a book featuring images of four white ceramic putti holding colorful flowers
  1. Planting Paradise: Cultivating the Garden, 1501–1900

    By Stephen Harris (2011)

    Dive into the history of the European garden from the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. This informative volume contains reproductions of significant botanical illustrations from the Plant Sciences Department and Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford. The author, Stephen Harris, is a professor at Oxford and its Druce Curator of the Herbaria, a prominent collection of preserved plant specimens.

    Book cover on a white shelf with the title Planting Paradise in front of sketches of plants and flowers
  1. Botanical Sketchbooks

    Compiled by Helen and William Bynum (2017)

    Flip through this volume of finished and unfinished botanical sketches and drawings from across the globe. Not often shown, the diverse images are organized thematically and feature both well-known and lesser-known figures of botanical illustration, a tradition at the intersection of art and science.

    Book cover on a white shelf featuring a botanical sketch
  1. Flowers of the Renaissance

    By Celia Fisher (2011)

    For those interested in a closer examination of specific flowers featured in Renaissance paintings and decorative arts, this volume offers a rich bouquet of historical, religious, and symbolic connections. The garden itself along with tulips, daffodils, and many other flowers are profiled to guide an understanding of flower iconography during the Renaissance period.

    Open spread of a book featuring a painting detail of the bodice of a dress covered in vines, leaves, and flowers
  1. A Very Victorian Passion: The Orchid Paintings of John Day, 1863–1888

    By Phillip Cribb and Michael Tibbs (2004)

    During the Victorian age, orchids quickly became an obsession among many upper-class collectors and enthusiasts, and rare specimens were even sold at auction. John Day, an orchid collector of the period, created thousands of paintings of the diverse specimens from his collection. This book offers readers a special insight into nineteenth-century orchid culture and contains 280 illustrations from Day’s sketchbooks, held at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.

    Open spread of a book featuring a sketch of a plant with yellow flowers stretching across both pages

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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