Alphonse Goossens, B.C. Rusthall Orchid Flower - 1931 watercolour painting


An original 1931 watercolour painting, Alphonse Goossens B.C. Rusthall Orchid Flower.

This remarkable orchid portrait is rendered with immense vibrancy and realism by the Belgian artist Alphonse Goossens (1866-1944), one of the most important botanical artists of the period for his drawings of orchids. The style in which the flower is portrayed would become the standard for orchid artists, being a frontal view of the flower at natural size, sometimes with a tinted background for emphasis, strikingly capturing the flower's delicate petal structure and symmetry.

On watercolour board. With gum arabic to intensify the watercolour. Artist's stamp, Stuart Low & Co stamps and inscriptions verso as shown.

Signed lower right. Inscribed lower centre.
Some minor age toning, slight foxing and marks as shown. There are patches of abrasion to the paper surface at the four corners and centre of the upper edge, as shown.
22.4cm x 19.1cm.

Alphonse Goossens (1866-1944) was chosen by important Belgian botanist Alfred Celestin Cogniaux (1841-1916) to illustrate his extensive Dictionnaire Iconographique des Orchidees; a 12-volume work published in Brussels over 12 years (1895-1907). The American Orchid Society purchased a large number of the original watercolors for the Dictionnaire, and Goossens was made an honorary member for his contribution to the scientific study of orchids. He also worked on J. Linden’s Iconographia des Orchidees, which was published in Ghent (1885-1901), and painted most of the illustrations in the catalogue of the Association of Haarlem Bulb-culturists, Florilegium Harlemense. In addition he completed private commissions for watercolors of prize-winning orchids.

This painting is one of six that we have for sale produced for the prestigious leading orchid grower Stuart Low & Co, Royal Nurseries, Jarvis Brook, Sussex dating from around the 1930s. The firm, run by Stuart Henry Low, was previously called Hugh Low & Co.

These orchid portraits were produced in the context of England’s fascinating orchid-growing history. In the early 19th-century, knowledge was poor and growing conditions in England’s greenhouse were ill-suited to orchids - so much so, that in 1850 the Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew declared England the ‘grave of all tropical orchids’. By the end of the 19th century, however, orchid growing in England was a successful and celebrated science. Low & Co had specimen collectors travel to far flung places such as the Andes, and the nurseries themselves were magnificent places, with hand-blown glass panels and wrought iron plant benches. Queen Victoria’s affection for the plants fuelled their popularity, and orchids were cultivated by royalty, the landed gentry and wealthy businessmen. Victorian women, however, were forbidden from owning orchids due to the suggestive shape of their flowers, and in 1912 suffragettes responded to this symbolic oppression by destroying most of the specimens at Kew Garden.

Text copyright © 2019 Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd. All rights reserved.

Product code: JM-157

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