24" x 23.6"
The names of plants usually reveal more about us than they do about the plants. Spanish priests grew Cosmos in their Mission gardens in Mexico. In fact, it was they who named the flower “Cosmos” after a Greek word for “balanced universe”, probably because of their evenly spaced petals. But just as likely their choice of name was influenced by their eagerness to find symbols of order in the universe during a time when they were likely suffering from culture shock.
I was in a very different mental space from the Spanish priests when I saw these Cosmos. Instead of expressing order and harmony they seemed to express freedom and defiance. The fern-like leaves and stems arched and bent in delightful whorls. They waved in the slightest breeze and every flower faced a different direction. My feeling might have been influenced by the fact that I was on vacation in France, the country that has long symbolized freedom for the world. Maybe it’s something in the air that made me want to break with convention. I tried to capture the free spirit of these flowers in the painting. Indeed choosing to paint these flowers was an act of rebellion in itself.
From the artistic point of view it was fortunate that this group of Cosmos contained plants of two shades, a pink and a dark rose. It was also lucky that the light pink ones were behind the darker ones. The opposite configuration would have competed with the artist’s trick for creating the perception of depth. Another interesting feature from the artist’s point of view is the bold yellow centers. Normally the color from the center is rather subtle, but Cosmos have two kinds of petals, small yellow ones in the center (called “disc” florets) and larger outer petals (called ray florets). The result is a two toned flower that is quite striking.
This little group of Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) lives outside of a centuries old stone cottage in Southern France.