On first seeing
‘Seven White Tulips’
Seven white tulips are captured at the very peak of their internal vitality, executed in an intensely pure concentration of light. The clean light radiating from the great flower heads is set against a background of sheer darkness, the brilliant whiteness of the blooms rendered with an intense clarity, and uniting in themselves the most unlikely combination of luxurious refulgence and the simplest, unadorned purity. Their upward thrust into this darkness – the petals’ curves and texture even evoke the feathers of doves – is sustained by the slenderest of stems, at once youthfully vigorous and hopelessly fragile, meticulously executed here in the varied tones of the light, moist greens of early springtime. This intensely beautiful painting is a study of focussed contrasts and associations. The impenetrable darkness of the background, which has no apparent terminus, sets forth the crystalline intensity of light, which has hints of silver moonlight; likewise, from the hard texture and lines of the silver pewter emerge the tender, fresh vitality of the green stems of springtime which slightly curve as if labouring under the weight of such large, resplendent flower
heads. The soft and delicate texture of the tulip petals, captured here as nature’s most lenient of silks, gently enfold their own secrets – anthers, stamens, pistils and ovaries – are set in bold contrast with the hard and unyielding pewter vase, a shining human artefact sitting upon cold granite. These are the intense contrasts that provide the setting for the seven, majestic flowers in which all the light and vigour of this painting is ultimately concentrated: an irrepressible internal energy and vital force has given rise to blooms of luminous natural purity and exquisite gentleness of texture.
Words by Dr T. Kelly