Wareham gardeners transform paintings into floral arrangements

Apr 30, 2019

This weekend, longtime Wareham Garden Club member Marissa McCoy returned for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for what she reckons is her 23rd or 25th year participating in the museum’s annual Art in Bloom event. Her assistant arranger was Peter Labouliere.

Each year, about fifty garden clubs across the state are asked to participate in the exhibit, which pairs each club with a work of art from the museum’s collection. The club designates a head and assistant designer who create an arrangement inspired by the work.

This year, the Wareham Garden Club was assigned what McCoy referred to as one of the museum’s “plum possessions:” John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.” The well-known painting, which is displayed prominently in the museum’s American Art wing, is a portrait of the four daughters of a Harvard-trained Boston lawyer who had moved to Paris with his wife and children.

In the painting, the youngest girl sits on the floor with her doll, while one sister stands with her hands clasped behind her back. The other two girls are almost in shadow as one leans against a Japanese vase that is taller than she is.

“This was really giving me something nice to work with,” McCoy said. “And a lot of people know the painting, so that makes it more interesting for them when they see the arrangement.”

When considering the arrangement for this work, McCoy said that she was struck by the unusual, asymmetrical composition of the painting and the subtle colors.

“You choose what you want to pick up on but don’t copy the painting,” McCoy explained. “The floral design should make people go back and look at the painting and see something they may not have seen before.”

Her goal, she said, is to complement the painting, not copy it.

Her arrangement this year was composed of bromelia, calla lilies, peonies, red dogwood branches, roses, strelitzia foliage, tulips, and tweedia.

“The museum does the most perfect lighting, because the way they manage the lighting is such that you don’t ever get stuck with something that is half in the light and half out of it or where the shadows look bizarre,” McCoy said. The location for this year’s arrangement was also excellent, McCoy said, as the painting is located in a front gallery and hers was the only arrangement in the room.

“People really like to come to see what the designers do in connection with the paintings. It gives you a chance to develop a critical eye,” McCoy said, explaining that the arrangements often lead visitors to look more closely at the work of art that inspired them, and question the arrangers’ decisions.

Art in Bloom is only open for one weekend, and has closed, but the event will be held again next year.