High Summer, Still Life with FlowersZoom In

High Summer, Still Life with Flowers by Lena Elizabeth Tarpley

This is, indeed, a paean of thanks for high summer. Late June, early July, when the garden is still fresh, green and full of promise - and here we have Tarpley taking such pleasure in a large jug, overflowing with flowers. Delphiniums, lupins, Campanula, Solomon's Seal: above all, are the lustrous peonies, almost certainly the old favourites, Paeonia 'Bowl of Beauty' and Paeonia 'White Wings'.

Peonies were probably originally grown in Europe, at least in part, for their medicinal properties (helped childbirth, warded off evil spirits, cured gall stones...!) and they have long been choice plants in cottage gardens. In the 19th century, however, a handful of French nurseries began to breed peonies for their beauty; and, from the late 19th century, Kelway's - still an excellent nursery, in Somerset - produced some wonderful blooms. But, in 1949, two of the most popular and glorious of peonies, were bred in the Netherlands - 'Bowl of Beauty' and 'White Wings'. Unusually for a peony, both of these are slightly fragrant.

This bountiful gathering of flowers fills the picture - reflecting some of the best of the sumptuous, 17th and 18th century Dutch and French paintings of blossoms. And - like so many of these predecessors - we must read Tarpley's picture not only as an image of delight, but also as a comment on the evanescence of beauty and life. The peonies are the stars and, here - with their faint scent and luxuriant flowers with satin sheen - they are in their glory.

This is an irresistibly beautiful paintings, full of lovely passages of paint and, surely, 'chocolate box' at its best.

Oil on board
Size Unframed:
29½ins x 23½ins
75cms x 59.5cms
Size Framed:
36½ins x 30½ins
92.5cms x 77.5cms
Signed, lower right