Flowers bring art to life at the National Gallery, London

A giant living floral installation from Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk takes inspiration from Dutch artists’ still life paintings.

Life imitates art: flowers take over the National GalleryFrom Thursday, 2 June 2016, visitors to the National Gallery were greeted by a sensational floral display of epic proportions that was visible from almost anywhere in Trafalgar Square. A 35-square metre living painting was on display on the gallery’s West lawn. Made using 26,430 fresh cut flowers, it was produced to celebrate Funnyhoflowersdothat.co.uk’s support of the Dutch Flowers exhibition at the National Gallery that was on all summer until 29 August 2016.

The painting selected from the collection was a floral masterpiece by Dutch artist Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder - A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase (1609-10). The flowers in Bosschaert’s arrangement (including liliestulips, roses, and carnations) are painted with almost scientific precision. The bouquet, however, is fiction: these flowers do not bloom at the same time, and would have been far too precious to cut for a temporary display. This is also the reason some flowers had to be substituted in the real floral installation.

The larger-than-life art installation stood 6.2 metres tall by 4.6 metres wide, the living painting dwarfs the 68.6cm by 50.7cm original canvas and was  a combined effort of almost 30 florists over 2 days using seasonal flowers featured in the Flower Agenda on Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk.

A floral masterpiece of epic proportions
The floral masterpiece was on display outside the National Gallery from Thursday 2nd until Monday 6th June and was a feat of nature as well as engineering:

  • The structure weighs 1,815 kilograms
  • It is made using 100 blocks of Oasis florist’s foam with 26,430  stems of 26 different varieties. 37 different colours were used to create depth and shading
  • The large structure even had a built-in water irrigation system to keep the blooms fresh
  • Flowers used included 6 tulip varieties, 4 varieties of peonies, 3 varieties of carnations, 6 varieties of freesias, 6 varieties of calla lily, and 5 varieties of roses
  • Over the course of the five days, the flowers were replenished twice bringing the total number of blooms to 52,950
  • The complete installation from the ground stood 8.2 metres tall; about same height as two average London double decker busses

Brush strokes of a Dutch master
Painted in 16-09-1610 by Ambrosius Brosschaert the Elder, A Still-Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase depicts a vast selection of blooms including lilies, tulips, roses, and carnations. The artist took regular inspiration from botanical illustrations and the flowers in his painting are depicted with incredibly lifelike realism. His painting is a masterful play on real and still life, context, composition, and creativity.

Social media
A competition ran alongside the installation for the 5 days of the display encouraging users to use the handle @flowersdothat and hashtag #DutchFlowers.  

National Gallery in numbers

  • 100K Visitors estimated to see exhibition (12K per day visitors per day)
  • 430K National Gallery E-Newsletter Subscribers to announce our activity
  • 641K Facebook fans
  • 581K Twitter followers
  • 57K Instagram followers
  • 30,000 Average footfall per day at Trafalgar Square

The installation was in Trafalgar Square from Thursday 2 June until Monday 6 June 2016, and the Dutch Flowers exhibition at the National Gallery ran all summer until 29 August 2016.

Copyright: A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase 1609-10 © The National Gallery, London
Copyright: A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase 1609-10 © The National Gallery, London
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