Pierre-Joseph Redouté is called the Raphael of flower painters but one thing is certain you can still see his art every where you look. Reprints of his paintings decorate walls, note cards with his images give thanks and deliver get well messages, tea cups with Redouté roses decorate a luncheon table, Redouté calendars keep us up to date, and his images sell rose scented cosmetics.
In fact it’s hard to escape his illustrations even now more than 180 years after the publication of Les Roses! To help impress this idea into the minds of exhibit visitors we came up with the idea of presenting modern objects with his images in a case we called the Ubiquitous Redouté.
Over the months of the planning stage I and others collected household objects with Redouté images at discount stores like TJ Max, Marshals, and Ross. Over time we discovered a tea cup here, and a set of boxed note cards there. One factor in this collecting is that I refused to spend more than $4.95 for any one thing, call me cheap but I have standards.
Jane Tsong (our show designer) discovered a set of inexpensive (cheap) cosmetics at one place and and over a number of months we built up quite a collection of knickknacks. After price our other criteria was these objects should have a recognizable Redouté image prominently displayed. So quite often when faced with a Victorian rose pattern china, even a quite lovely one, I had to force myself to reject it.
Jacqueline Dugas, the Art Division Registrar for art exhibits, and known on campus for her love of maroon fabrics, noticed our growing collection and asked about it. She then volunteered to sew a pillow with a fabric printed with a Redouté image she had collected and donate it to the exhibit. Her husband only insisted that she not bring it home after the show!
Myriam Hu who helped us with the fragrance displays, had visited Bulgaria a few years back and there had purchased a jar of rose scented face cream with a heavenly perfume. You could even smell it through the case during the show.
We added two modern reprints of Les Roses to the case just for effect and Jane did an artful display of the various objects which did seem to catch the eye of our visitors.
At one point during one of the many openings for our member groups a very stylish lady confronted me an politely demanded that The Huntington Bookstore sell a squarish shaped coffee cup in the display. Unfortunately I had to inform her that I had purchased the cup in question recently at Marshals, a store I doubt she frequented, and that as well as I could recall they were sold out of them. She took the news well enough but expressed her disappointment that she could not enjoy her daily cup of café au lait in such a cup!
Redouté who suffered under financial difficulties in his later life would no doubt have enjoyed the income from his work unfortunately artistic rights don’t extend quite that far back. And I think his patron Joséphine would get quite a chuckle over the range of influence her court flower painter still holds sway today.