Its human nature to be fascinated by the things we can’t have, to ask questions about the things we don’t yet understand, to question established understandings. So the Dutch, who were very good at agriculture, were fascinated by exotic plants, by the variety and change in the life span of a plant, by the seemingly random colours, shapes, textures, But this was not a dutiful, scientific pusuit. Beguiled by the beauty and form of petals, by the alchemic growth from seed to flower, enchanted by nature: growth, decay, reproduction, by the arrangement of petals, leaves, stamen, by texture, luminousity, this was art/nature, held up to the light for admiring eyes. Painters sought to capture this effervescence in qualities of light and colour before they were spirited away as quickly as they appeared.
Dutch Flower painting emerged at the same time as landscape painting, yet both were less esteemed than portrait and allegorical painting. Luther's notion that salvation could be sought in scriptures and the Bible rather than Rome, (now translated and readily available in a book shop near you) fed a sense of individualism, and meant people took more responsibility for their fate, destiny, health, morality. Houses, coupled with time and money meant the Dutch Republicans had seriously more art on their walls than any other Europeans at that time. A sense of patriotism, for a newly independent state that was actually doing pretty good job of looking after itself (thank you very much Spain). Paintings were a place to hang ones hopes, dreams, intellectual energies, collective identities. More Dutch homes, for more Dutch people meant more walls on which to hang painterly celebrations of its landscapes, the very 'stuff' from which they emerged after all. Knowledge and intellectual ownership of the dutch empire and its curiosities was expressed visually and manifest itself in the huge popularity of both landscape and floral painting. A widening of perspectives on the one hand, in explorations and mappings of new territories, was balanced on the other by a curiosity for the minutiae of life, the internal workings of living organisms and how they are at once autonomous and yet so interdependent. Quite unusually there were several very well respected and quite wealthy women flower painters, with education and skills to match any other.