Sometimes painting a rose is like reading a great novel, you want to find out how it will end up , but at the same time you don’t want it to ever end.  Such was my experience of painting Constance Spry, the first glorious rose introduced by David Austin back in 1961.  This is the second David Austin I have painted and I am looking forward to continuing this series because painting these intricate roses is like escaping into another world for a time.

The namesake of this rose, Constance Spry (1886-1960), a high profile florist who was ahead of her time, was a champion for the old garden roses and collected them from French and American nurseries.  At the age of 43 in 1929 she opened her first florist shop and by 1934 she employed 70 people.  She caused a sensation with her unorthodox displays which took inspiration from the lavish paintings of the Dutch masters of the 17th and 18th century.

Even though Constance Spry flower arrangements were used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Constance Spry offered floristry advice for the everyday person.  Some of Constance Spry’s resourceful tips included:

– use humble materials such as berries, twigs and ferns

– improvise with containers, use a collection of jam jars in a basket

– go scavenging at fairs and antique stores for interesting containers and repaint them

– use wire mesh to secure flowers

– display a single bloom in a vase

– polish ivy leaves with glycerine

And I think you get a sense of Constance Spry’s exuberance in her own words below, which I believe relates to floral arranging, or perhaps life in general:

“Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don’t if you don’t want to be.  Just be natural and gay and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylised and wild and daring and conservative and learn and learn and learn.  Open your minds to every form of beauty.”

“One arranges flowers as the spirit moves you; to obey some inner prompting to put this colour with that, to have brilliance here, line there, a sense of opulence in this place or sparseness in that; to suit your surroundings, your mood, the weather, the occasion. In a word, to do as you please, just as, if you could, you might paint a picture.”