Preface and Acknowledgements

Flower painting is an ancient art form. Decorative wreaths of garlands and flower baskets were popular subjects in Greek painting as early as the Hellenistic period, and early Roman mosaics depict a great variety of flowers with amazing richness of color and detail. The tradition dwindled in the Middle Ages but was revived in Flemish and Italian art of the 15th century. It found its golden age in 17th century Dutch still life painting, where vases of exotic flowers reflected the expanding world of the Dutch colonial empire. Rare plants from Turkey, Persia, Mexico and the Indies were studied with analytic care and rendered by the artists in minute detail and scientific accuracy.
 
Eggert Pétursson’s flower paintings pose a unique stance in relation to this ancient tradition, as Eva Heisler and Ólöf K. Sigurdardóttir point out in their thoughtful essays. The paintings offer us neither decorative trompe-l’oeil nor exotic curiosities but local plants, unremarkable and often overlooked. Nor is it the practical or taxonomic status of the flowers that capture the beholder’s fancy. They are not restricted to categories of classification any more than to vases or baskets. They possess what the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) called “free natural beauty” in that we admire them on their own account rather than for their purposiveness. They are, as Heisler says, pure fields of color.

This book is published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of Eggert Pétursson’s paintings, presented at the Reykjavik Art Museum - Kjarvalsstaðir in the fall 2007. I like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Landsbanki, whose generous contribution helps make this publication possible. Many thanks also to the collectors who have lent works for the exhibition and to Pétursson’s gallery, i8. Finally, I want to thank Guðmundur Ingólfsson, who photographed all the paintings

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