japonisme: an education in colors

16 March 2010

an education in colors

welcome to the world of f. schuyler mathews,
botanist, gardener and calendar maker.

today is just the introduction; next comes the calendar.
these images are from his book
the golden flower: chrysanthemum
,
and the words from his
field book of american wildflowers.

The chief beauty of the flower garden is its color. If we are inclined to consider color as only one of the essential elements of its beauty which attract us, we make a mistake; it is the color of the tulip, the rose, the dahlia, and the chrysanthemum which is the attraction as surely as we possess eyesight. The appreciation of beautiful forms and artistic arrangements, the perfume of the flowers, and their varied characteristics, are all matters of secondary interest compared with the golden yellow, the sapphire blue, the ruby red, and the royal purple which gladden our eyes when the spring flowers begin to bloom.

Imagine a garden bereft of every color but green; and suppose every flower presented to our eyes a variation of that one hue; what would we think then of the garden's beauty ? Would the bees find the flowers and continue to gather honey? I think the answers to such questions will compel us to place color first on the list of the attractions in a garden, and underline the word as well.

But it is necessary to understand exactly what the color is which we call red, or blue, or yellow. For the sake of something tangible I shall call the Portia carnation pure red, the zenith blue of the sky pure blue, and the wild mustard at its yellowest best, or the lemon-colored African marigold, pure yellow; the outside surface of the buttercup's petal is also near the pure yellow. The scarlet runner is exactly an orange-scarlet, the President Hyde chrysanthemum is a perfect golden yellow, and the bluest bachelor's button is blue inclined toward the ultramarine tone. There are powerful tones of purple in the cinerarias ranging right toward crimson and toward ultramarine blue ; the daffodils give us a wealth of golden orange, and also yellow tints reaching as far as greenish yellow, and among the petunias we may find varieties crimson and solferino in hue.


A perfect knowledge of the individuality of a certain color is, without doubt, a matter of education. When once we know that the scarlet vermilion of the artist's paint-box or the Madame Crozy canna is pure scarlet, when that color is before our eyes for days in succession and our memory of it is established beyond doubt, then we may be sure that we hold in our hands a key which will unlock the secret door of all knowledge of color.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Lotus,
I love this so much I feel like he made it for me and you are a genius to discover such a thing. I which I could get a print of it to frame. Thank you for the discovery of such a flower of perfection.

16 March, 2010 21:17  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

LOL I just tried saving the image to my desktop and it's so big the head didn't fit in. Now I will have to undo that.. :)

16 March, 2010 21:19  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I love it so much I had to cross post it.

16 March, 2010 21:43  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

when i first looked at it and saw the mums i thought of you and then when i scrolled down and saw the words i just thought !!!!!!!!.

16 March, 2010 22:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it s immensly satisfying to read and see what thoughts and images you collect and connectm, and that at not being fond of jugendstil, flowery art or turn of the century-anything much at all.

18 March, 2010 14:41  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you. i'm not sure i completely understand and i would love for you to explain further!

18 March, 2010 21:54  

Post a Comment

hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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