Hudson River Museum Presents Floral Arrangements: Highlights from the Collection

The Hudson River Museum is delighted to announce a new exhibition, Floral Arrangements: Highlights from the Collection, on view June 3 – September 17, 2017. Floral Arrangements illustrates the various ways we express our love of flowers with selections from the Museum’s 19th- and 20th-century collections. From botanical watercolors by Joanna Kellinger in Victorian Yonkers to a “Mimosa” rug by Henri Matisse, on view for the first time since 1983, floral specimens from the Museum’s vaults have been arranged to coincide with Robert Zakanitch: Garden of Ornament.

Featuring more than 30 objects, the exhibition includes paintings, photographs, textiles, ceramics and more. The exhibition begins with a wall of botanical studies, where Kellinger’s English Bluebells and Spider Lilieshang next to a 1934 drawing, Banana Blossom, by Georgia O’Keeffe. Other sections include portraiture, the decoration of clothing and home furnishings, and photographic studies ranging from formal compositions to allegorical still-life arrangements.

Portrait paintings and photographs by John White Alexander, Rudolf Eickemeyer and Edward Steichen reveal the common theme of including flowers as decorative and symbolic elements. George Stengel, a founder of the Yonkers Art Association and the Hudson River Museum, is represented by a painting of women seated around a vase of flowers, but also by vivid floral carpet designs. Stengel was also the chief designer at Alexander Smith carpet factory.

A series of densely packed and highly colorful photographs by pioneering photo-realist Audrey Flack, on which she based her paintings, illustrate how contemporary artists have looked back to the past for floral inspiration and references ranging from growth and decay, to life and death.

Many objects have not been on display for decades, or are recent acquisitions on view for the first time. Matisse designed his 1951 limited edition rug for the Alexander Smith carpet factory in Yonkers to fabricate on its Axminster looms. He based the abstract floral motif on his paper cutouts of the same period. Also on display for the first time in over 30 years is an evening coat from the 1920s with a pattern of gold chrysanthemums. It is from the New York City fashion house Dunstan, which was owned and operated by dressmaker Alice M. Dunstan.

Newly acquired collections include a recently donated group of intricately beaded purses from the late 19th and early 20th century—all with floral embellishment and vases festooned with molded flowers by Odell & Booth, a Tarrytown ceramics firm operating from the 1870s to 1890s. A special treat will be the Museum’s newest acquisition, a classic Currier & Ives print, Landscape: Fruit and Flowers by Fanny Palmer, one of the firm’s most important artists. Beyond the lush bouquet and flowers climbing a porch trellis, we glimpse more nature—the tree-covered Highlands and the bountiful Hudson River.

Also on view are the period rooms of Glenview, the Museum’s Gilded Age home on the National Register of Historic Places. There many more floral collections can be seen, from decorative arts to the stylized flowers of the woodwork, the friezes and the tiles. A popular flower of the period, chrysanthemums appear in the Japanesque stencils of the sitting room. The flower was a favorite of John Bond Trevor, the original owner of Glenview, who with his gardener John Wiffler cultivated the “Glenview Mum” in the estate’s greenhouses.