a bouquet of paper flowers

A basket of different types of flowers, in varying colors. Three stemmed flowers lie in the table in front, with a butterfly and a dragonfly.

Flower Still Life, 1614, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder. Oil on copper, 12 × 15 5/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 83.PC.386. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

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.

Basket with a tall bouquet of various flowers, and lots of them.

Flowers in a Wooden Vessel, 1606–07, Jan Brueghel the Elder. Oil on wood, 38.58 x 28.74 in. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A century later, artist Jan van Huysum’s patrons considered his lavish bouquets “miracles of nature.”

Basket of flowers, with a bird nest next to it.

Vase of Flowers, 1722, Jan van Huysum. Oil on panel, 31 5/8 × 24 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 82.PB.70. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

“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

Materials: pencils, glue, tape, scissors, ruler, and colored construction paper

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

Blue paper with flower shapes drawn on, cut out blue flowers, a paper-wrapped pencil with paper flowers glued on.

  1. Trace or draw four flower shapes on a 9 x 3 inch strip of paper
  2. Draw four round circles or use a hole punch on another paper
  3. Cut out flower shapes and circles
  4. Glue circles to flower centers and set aside to dry
  5. For the stem, cut a strip of paper about 1½ x 5 inches
  6. Tape the long edge to the pencil
  7. Wrap paper around pencil and tape or glue along the edge to secure the end
  8. Glue flowers onto the upper pencil, placing two flowers on each side so that they align back to back.

How to Make Paper Tulips

Yellow paper with petals drawn on, cutout petals, and petals glued to paper-wrapped pencil

  1. Trace or draw six teardrop petal shapes on a  4½ x 11 inch piece of paper.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. Glue in place and let dry
  5. Tape pencil to back of one petal set and add glue to surrounding paper.
  6. Glue backside of the other petal set on top so you have a three-dimensional tulip

How to Make Paper Daisies

Orange paper cut in strips, rolled around a pencil

  1.             Cut a strip of paper about 11 x 2½  inches
  2.             Draw a ½-inch wide  border across the top to make the “no-cut zone”
  3.             Cut small, ¼-inch thick fringe across the entire length (avoid the “no cut zone”)
  4.             Tape completed strip to the eraser end of a pencil, fringe side up
  5.             Roll, layer upon layer and glue or tape at the end
  6.             Gently press fringe petals down to create fuller blossom (eraser optional)

And there’s more! Find more detailed instructions and to learn how to make an Artful Bouquet of forget-me-nots, hyacinths, tulips, and daisies here.