Flower Arrangement Master Class: If an Agnes Martin Painting Was a Bouquet

Floral arrangement inspired by “Untitled, 1953” by Agnes Martin.


Stephen Kent Johnson for The Wall Street Journal, floral style by Lindsey Taylor, accessory style by Nidia Cueva

AGNES MARTIN the most well-known paintings feature stripes or grids in soft colors stretched across 6-square-foot canvases. During a recent exhibition devoted to the Canadian-born artist (1912-2004) at the Guggenheim in New York, I made my way up the famous gallery ramp, absorbed by the sober palette of Martin and his repetitive and soothing images. But her earlier works, in which she first gave up figurative painting, struck me the most.

Untitled, 1953, Oil on canvas. 33 1/2 “x 47 1/2”


© 2017 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society, NY / Mildred Tolbert Collection, MA Healy Family Foundation Purchase Fund, Collection of the Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM

I chose one, “Untitled 1953”, as the inspiration for this month’s arrangement. In this painting, it is as if biomorphic shapes floating alongside are captured in the chalky canvas. Artist Stephen Antonson, a friend, created a plaster vase for me that could easily fit into one of his paintings.

I felt that a controlled arrangement rather than a romantic one was called for. Fixing a floral frog in the vase, I massaged peach-pink tulips on one side and yellow roses with tan centers on the other, creating shapes as emphatic as Martin’s. The dark wall, as prominent as the flowers, not only refers to the dark tones of the painting, but also highlights the vase and the light flowers. Maybe over time I would have come back and mixed more. But the tulips will start to stretch in a day or two and take on a more playful look.

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Rosalie M. Dehner