If you look closely at this still life of flowers in a basket, you’ll notice a dragonfly, a bee, and butterflies. The insects, like the petals, are still. It’s as if the artist captured the “most beautiful tulip at the perfect moment of readiness,” said Anne Woollett, curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. You might also notice that the white rose is not facing the viewer. Instead, it’s the structure and its tiny thorns that are on view. In this way, the artist is revealing the complete miracle of nature.
In the 17th century, art collectors would talk about their appreciation of nature and its connection to a higher power. For example, Federico Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, saw nature as evidence of a higher power of creativity when reflecting on Brueghel’s detailed paintings of flowers.
A century later, artist Jan van Huysum’s patrons considered his lavish bouquets “miracles of nature.”
“Flowers elicit a fundamental emotional response of wonder or awe,” said Woollett. In the garden, they come and go, but “through the power of art time stands still, and we can possess the bounty of nature.”
Below, we offer you a flower-making activity inspired by Getty’s collection.
An Artful Bouquet
There’s no limit to the flowers that you can make! Find in-depth, step-by-step instructions for forget-me-nots, hyacinths, tulips, and daisies here.
How to Make Paper Forget-Me-Nots
- Trace or draw four flower shapes on a 9 x 3 inch strip of paper
- Draw four round circles or use a hole punch on another paper
- Cut out flower shapes and circles
- Glue circles to flower centers and set aside to dry
- For the stem, cut a strip of paper about 1½ x 5 inches
- Tape the long edge to the pencil
- Wrap paper around pencil and tape or glue along the edge to secure the end
- Glue flowers onto the upper pencil, placing two flowers on each side so that they align back to back.
How to Make Paper Tulips
- Trace or draw six teardrop petal shapes on a 4½ x 11 inch piece of paper.
- Cut out the six petals, approximately 3 inches tall and 1 3/4 inches at the widest point. Set aside two petals and fold the other four in half.
- Place two folded petals on top of each of the flat petals (straight side facing inward, with folded petals touching at bottom and apart at top)
- Glue in place and let dry
- Tape pencil to back of one petal set and add glue to surrounding paper.
- Glue backside of the other petal set on top so you have a three-dimensional tulip
How to Make Paper Daisies
- Cut a strip of paper about 11 x 2½ inches
- Draw a ½-inch wide border across the top to make the “no-cut zone”
- Cut small, ¼-inch thick fringe across the entire length (avoid the “no cut zone”)
- Tape completed strip to the eraser end of a pencil, fringe side up
- Roll, layer upon layer and glue or tape at the end
- Gently press fringe petals down to create fuller blossom (eraser optional)