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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

American, born Germany, c. 1815 - c. 1872
Victorian Bouquet
c. 1850–55
Oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 29 inches
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund

Arts of North America

Severin Roesen’s exuberant Victorian Bouquet showcases a profusion of brightly colored flowers and luscious ripe fruits, along with a thin-stemmed glass of sparkling wine, all resting on a dark marble ledge. This portrayal of overflowing abundance provides a feast for all of the senses and celebrates mid-19th-century America’s wealth and good fortune, the result of urbanization and industrialization.

Roesen began his career as a porcelain painter in his native Germany. Because 19th-century German porcelain often displayed floral designs, that experience provided a good foundation for still-life painting. He may also have benefited from early exposure to 17th- and 18th-century Dutch paintings of fruit and flowers, as well as from the 19th-century works that revived the still-life tradition.

In the late 1840s, Roesen immigrated to the United States, where he painted Victorian Bouquet. The opulent arrangement of morning glories, roses, irises, tulips, and other flowers, surrounded by fruits such as blackberries, apricots, and strawberries, exemplifies Roesen's crisp and luxuriant style. The artist greatly popularized still-life painting—a genre that did not develop into a substantial tradition in the United States until the 1850s and 1860s—and influenced American artists for generations.