The eternal beauty of the flower

Though summer has officially ended, two new books from Thames & Hudson remind us that flowers are a year-round delight.

Autumn has officially arrived.

And while it might seem that the change of seasons means an end to summer’s bounty of blooms, that’s not necessarily so.

While many flowers are seasonal, flowers can be found throughout the year, in gardens and greenhouses but also in art, fashion, design and more.

Two books published this month allow us to celebrate the sheer beauty of flowers of all kinds and the creativity they inspire, no matter the date on the calendar.

First up is “Flora Magnifica: The Art of Flowers in Four Seasons” by Makoto Azuma and Shunsuke Shiinoki (Thames & Hudson, 256 pages, $50).

As described in advance materials, “Lush photographs showcase flowers in images highlighting their riotous colors and exuberant nature. … From the vibrance of fresh petals to the unfurling elegance of fern fronds, these sumptuous displays are vividly preserved in this meditative volume that will enchant all lovers of photography, nature and art.”

We’d both agree – and add that the book’s approach is quite unique.

As Hideto Fuse writes in the opening pages, “This is no ordinary picture book. This is a new kind of reference book.”

Following is the official introduction, “Still Life in Endless Motion” by Azuma, whose artful arrangements are photographed by Shiinoki. Together, they formed the floral atelier Jardins des Fleurs.

Next up is “Gallery,” the heart of the book, which allows a leisurely exploration of the natural world through a season-by-season format. Stunning floral images are presented on stark black or white backgrounds, uninterrupted by descriptions or further text (for details, you can consult the index at the back of the book).

This bold presentation allows a true delving into an exuberant natural world, a celebration of form, color and in the end, life itself.

For more of a step back in time, turn to “William Morris’s Flowers,” by Rowan Bain (144 pages, $19.95), published by Thames & Hudson in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

It’s a look at historic designs, to be sure, but includes countless images that remain as vibrant and pleasing today as when they were first introduced.

For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick summary, as provided by Thames & Hudson:

“The leading figure of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris (1834-1896) is one of the best-known and most popular of all British designers. A passionate advocate of craftsmanship over mass production, he designed a huge variety of objects, but it is his spectacular carpet, fabric, and wallpaper patterns that have continued to capture the popular imagination and influence interior designers and the decorative arts. Around 600 such designs are attributed to Morris, most of which are based on nature, including trees, plants and flowers.”

The compact volume – an ideal gift – is a celebration of Morris designs in which flowers are prominent. Accompanying text explores the origins of Morris’ flower-based designs, from his own gardens to illuminated medieval manuscripts.

This charming look at Morris is presented in a most capable – and informative – manner by Bain, senior curator at the William Morris Gallery in London and, formerly, assistant curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

For more, visit

– Mary Shustack




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