††††††††††† Flowers as objects of
beauty and a means of personal expression are part of the whole history of
human existence.† Our ancient ancestors must
have responded with wonder and delight to the sight and fragrance of the wild
flowers around them. While our earliest specific record of floral use dates to
the Egyptian civilization, there is now evidence of use in the Paleolithic
Period. A burial site discovered in an
††††††††††† How flowers are used and arranged is the result of many cultural influences.† This includes the influence of previous design styles or techniques on those later emerging.† This is most certainly true for American or Western design which is a combination of European and Oriental design styles.† These, in turn, have their own history that influenced their development.
††††††††††† Floral design history primarily offers a perspective on design evolution.† While there are some classic design techniques and styles in use today, the purely historical designs are only for limited specific home decors and mainly for educational purposes in competitions.† Other reference works plus paintings and other visual art forms can aid those wanting training for "period arrangements."† At the same time, it is not uncommon for a period design style to reappear in a slightly modified form, either on its own or in a combination of styles.† In this way the historical influences continue to have an impact on design evolution into the future.
††††††††††† The following discussion is divided into five areas by time and geographical influence on design history.† On the following page there is a date chart which may assist interpreting the overlapping European and American periods.
The Classical Period
††††††††††† The Egyptian civilization, or at least the royals, made extensive use of flowers, foliages, and fruits designed in vases and baskets. Decorated vases and wall paintings in the tombs indicate that roses, poppies, violets, narcissus, lotus, water lilies, and other plants were cultivated and arranged in special containers having stem supports built into the top.† A repetition and alternation of flowers and colors was common in the designs.† While there was general use of flowers everyday, most significant was ceremonial importance in floral tributes to the dead and in their religion. This includes floral symbolism as the lotus blossom, with its yellow center and outstretched petals, was the sacred flower of Ra, the Sun God.
††††††††††† In contrast to the vase arrangements
††††††††††† The Roman civilization drew mainly from the Greek floral uses, continuing and improving on techniques of making wreaths and garlands. Extensive trade increased access to different flowers, and Egyptian influence brought some vase arranging to Roman floral use.† While the Greeks grew some plants indoors for winter flowers, the Romans took advantage of the better, warmer environment of the bathhouses.† However, little was added to the floral arts as this was generally a time of luxury and opulence leading to gross excess in the use of floral materials.
††††††††††† After the fall of the
The European Periods
††††††††††† The Renaissance brought a rebirth to
floral design and the arts in general.†
The style began in
††††††††††† The Italian artist Michelangelo influenced the transition from the classical Renaissance style into the more lavish Baroque period. As flower arranging was not yet established as an independent art form, it was the painters who set the styles in floral design.† Designs of this time were also tall and massive with many flowers, but they tended more to the oval shape. Color was used without restraint, and accessories of figurines, fans, and butterflies were often incorporated to create the full composition. Later in the period there was a further transition toward asymmetrical curved designs in the C (crescent) or S (Hogarth) shape.† This helped refine the massive style to a more graceful, dynamic, and elegant appearance.
††††††††††† As the Baroque style spread through
††††††††††† With the French Revolution and
discovery of the Roman ruins at
††††††††††† Overlapping the end of the Baroque
Period were the reigns of the English kings George I and George II.† This Georgian Period in English design moved
from the painters' influence (who were cramming seasonal flowers and branches
into urns) toward the classical work of such artisans as ceramics maker
Wedgwood and cabinetmakers Chippendale and Heppelwhite. Trade with
††††††††††† The Neoclassic style was important
The American Periods
††††††††††† European colonists brought the floral styles of their
homeland as they settled in
††††††††††† The English colonists in
††††††††††† Following the American Revolution, English influences
were generally rejected and attention shifted to the French styles of design.
Neoclassic and Empire influences were most prominent in delicate designs that
stressed beauty of the individual flower.†
Subsequently, with better relations with
††††††††††† The Victorian Period is generally noted for its lack of artistic taste, and the floral arrangements reflect this in a combining of materials with little thought to how those materials should relate in a design composition.† A serious effort was made to return art to the basic techniques in floral design.† Skilled designers began teaching the art of floral design and the recognition of required skills for successful application of art and design in flower arranging helped establish the florist profession early in the 20th century.
††††††††††† Most American designs in the early 1900's tended to be either copies of earlier European styles or, more often, efforts to blend several styles. One component in the blends was a Japanese influence.† Containers and other aspects of Oriental designs were utilized to a small extent in some earlier periods, but the whole style and philosophy was very different from the European design character.† While American designs at this time continued to be mostly European in nature, more interest in Japanese design led to increasing integration of East and West, somewhat during the 1930's and very rapidly after World War II.
Oriental Floral Design
††††††††††† In ancient Egypt the lotus was the sacred flower of Ra, the Sun God, as its shape and color represented the sun.† All plant forms also were considered to have life; therefore, they were sacred.† Symbolism and sacred value led to the concept of gathering storm damaged flowers and leaves (as a preservation of life) for scattering by the priests at their religious altars.
††††††††††† The religious philosophy and
practice of using floral materials spread from the Middle East to the Far East,
particularly moving with the spread of the Buddhist religion.† It was a temple art, practiced by the priests
only.† A change did occur with the
Buddhist priests in
††††††††††† Late in the 6th century traders had
brought information to
††††††††††† The succeeding ruling prince of
"hermit-by-the-lake."† As much of his life was devoted to arranging
flowers for Buddhist ceremonies, including many refinements in the art and
rituals, his instruction was sought by other priests.† Thus, he established the first school of
floral art in
††††††††††† The Ikenobo
††††††††††† As Oriental floral arrangement
reached its fullest development in
††††††††††† The use in designs of only damaged
materials destined to die, as a preservation of their lives, is no longer
absolute, but this philosophy is maintained in the Oriental design
characteristic of simplicity.† The
oriental countries, long used to scarcity in every form, did not use large
masses of flowers as was the case in European arrangements. Instead, they used
a few flowers and branches combined in pleasing line designs.† These designs also were asymmetrical in
contrast to the full, symmetrical mass designs of
††††††††††† Lines in Japanese floral designs also are symbolic with specific relationships to each other, although the degree of symbolism and rigidity will vary with the different schools.† The most basic form is a 3-line design, in which the three lines represent heaven, man, and earth.† Heaven (Shin) is the tallest line, standing above the rest.† At the base is earth (Tai or Hikae) as the foundation line.† In between is the man (Soe) line, reflecting the human existence between the "sphere of heaven and the soil of the earth."† Positioning of these lines creates a triangular outline, which is retained even as the basic design may be enlarged to 5, 7, or 9 lines. Typically, only odd numbers of flowers were used because odd numbers were considered lucky, more natural, and in better conformity with the heaven, man, and earth theme.
††††††††††† The original temple forms of Japanese floral arrangements were large and intended to depict a landscape image (Rikkwa or Rikka style), ranging from six to 15 feet in height.† The three main structural elements were present as Shin, the distant view (background trees), Soe, the middle view (low shrubbery in front of the trees), and Tai, the close view (flowers in the foreground).† By size of the design and cost of the heavy bronze and brass containers needed, this style of design moved from the temples only to the palaces and homes of the nobility. In the Ikenobo style the three lines were given emphasis in the heaven, man, and earth symbolism, but the designs remained formal. Centuries passed before Japanese floral art became part of the home in a new school of design using low containers made of accessible bamboo.
††††††††††† In the 15th century the ruling Shogun was a great promoter of the tea ceremony and flower arrangements.† Homes included a special alcove or niche, the tokonoma, as a religious shrine where a scroll painting and flower arrangement were placed.† In the tea ceremony, an elaborate and very stylized ritual for welcoming guests into the home, the guest was seated closest to the tokonoma for a good view of the flower arrangement made in his honor.† These designs of the Shokwa (or Seika) school carried the heaven, man, and earth theme in the distinctive asymmetric triangular arrangements continuing today.† Rather rigid rules are applied in the line lengths and directions, from which one might expect a tiresome similarity among the arrangements.† This is not the case, however, as the design height and proportions within the triangle and the choices of plant materials are varied.
††††††††††† Another informal style emerged near the same time with a more naturalistic image and intended use outside of religious occasions.† While the religious symbolism remains in the designs, the Nageire or "thrown
in" style exhibits a casualness in its simple arrangements that are seemingly artless but possess great subtlety needing a high degree of skill to achieve.† This is a design for upright vases, or sometimes hanging containers, that uses more curving lines appropriate to simple homes and everyday life compared to the formal, rigid triangles of the classic styles.† Upright, slanting, and other variations have evolved in this design style that is intended for viewing at a position above eye level (as opposed to Seika designs to be viewed at eye level).
††††††††††† The Moribana style was developed in
1890 from the
††††††††††† As designs in
Contemporary American Design
††††††††††† Beginning in the 1930's and progressing rapidly with closer study after World War II, the pleasing qualities of the Japanese line design were added to the mass designs of America and Europe.† This evolved to a hybrid, line-mass style that adds an emphasis to directing eye movement into and through the arrangement.† This is recognized as a unique American (or Western) design style that may be "borrowed" and seen in designs worldwide.
††††††††††† In contemporary American arrangements the designer now has a choice of three traditions: the European world of mass design, the Oriental world of line design, and the American world of line-mass, a combination of the two.† Mass arrangements have the entire area filled with flowers and plant
materials, not in the profuse overflowing character of European designs, yet with a feeling of abundance.† There should be a definite color harmony, a segregation of color with gradual transition from one to the other, good symmetrical or asymmetrical balance, a strong focal point of massed plant material, less dense material to give graceful height and breadth, and emphasis on repetition, contrast, and texture. Line arrangements draw from the Japanese style but are not locked to the rigid rules, allowing greater exploration of the natural beauty of the plant material.† They are designs created entirely of lines and silhouettes of the individual leaves and/or flowers.† The arrangement necessarily contains less plant material, and the voids between and around the materials are a very significant part of the design.† The arrangement may be symmetrically balanced, often incorporating a central figurine or other accessory, or asymmetrically balanced, which usually offers more freedom of expression.† Design rhythm may be varied infinitely through variations in the line choice.† The most important requirement is that the arrangement has a clean-cut design.† Line-mass arrangements are based on a clean-cut, sculptural design with equal emphasis on the skeletal pattern of lines that determine the arrangement shape, the voids between the lines and other plant forms, and the massed materials that give weight, focus, and depth.† (In some cases the arrangements are termed††††††† line-mass when the line component has emphasis greater than or equal to the mass component, and mass-line when the mass component is greater.)† The line portion may be built in with branches, stems, or series of blooms or leaves, usually in steeple fashion, which create a visual path for the eye.† The lines and the voids they create develop the skeletal pattern.† The mass portion is usually placed low and to the center and along the main axis or axes. The mass image of the design is greater to the center and thins out toward the periphery of the arrangement.† The plant materials should be repeated in form and color throughout the arrangement.
††††††††††† As in all art forms, floral art is in constant change.† Traditional mass and line-mass designs continue to be very important today in commercial and home arrangements.† Pure line designs are less common but have a definite place in modern decorating and expression.† Many professional florists and garden club artisans are expanding the horizons of floral art in interpretive and freestyle designs.† For some designers and florist market areas there is stronger desire for more expressive arrangements, often with higher cost exotic and unusual plant materials, to create a floral statement in High Style and other design variations. These arrangements, particularly as their commercial value is based more on artistic skill rather than quantity of floral materials, do not appeal to all tastes, just as the traditional designs will vary in their appeal. This is no different than exists with every form of art.† Fortunately, there is freedom to choose across all areas of floral design, to explore and experiment with each, and to develop a personal skill and design satisfaction.