A Rose by Any Other Name

  • Posted on Mar 22, 2011 by

New York is already getting a much-needed taste of spring through The Roses—an installation on Park Avenue between 57th and 67th streets—by contemporary artist Will Ryman. The larger-than-life sculptures of roses and rose petals in different shades of pink makes this writer daydream of warm days to come. The project is sponsored by the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Fund for the Park Avenue Sculpture Committee in conjunction with Paul Kasmin Gallery and is on display through the end of May.

Detail, Will Ryman, The Roses, Park Avenue installation, 2011 (Photograph by the author)

The rose has long been depicted in the fine arts and figures prominently in The Four Seasons, Spring by the eighteenth-century French artist François Boucher, which can be viewed along with his paintings of the other three seasons in the galleries of The Frick Collection. Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Colin Bailey, in a 2004 Members’ Magazine article, eloquently describes the scene that unfolds in Spring as depicting a “music-making swain who has cast his tambourine to one side so that he may attach flowers to the braids of a remarkably self-composed shepherdess. A beribboned basket overflowing with cut flowers sits on her lap, while a stem of roses (one open, one in bud) rests on the ground at the edge of her skirts.” He continues, “Desire is present but controlled . . . Only the roses, which the poet La Fontaine had considered as fragrant as kisses, pose the mildest of threats to this well-mannered scene.”

Until the buds of spring begin to bloom (and after), I encourage you to visit the Frick galleries to enjoy Spring and other works that incorporate enchanting botanicals and to sit for a moment in the tranquil Garden Court of the museum. Have no fear, if you are far, far away from New York, you can search the collection online through the Frick’s website or experience the museum through the Google Art Project, which also includes fellow New York Art Research Consortium (NYARC) member The Museum of Modern Art.

For inquisitive minds that desire more than just visuals, books related to the rose and other flowers can be found in the holdings of NYARC libraries by searching Arcade through the subject headings linked below:

Roses and Roses in art

Flowers and Flowers in art

Flowers—Symbolic aspects

Plants and Plants in art

Trees and Trees in art

Fruit and Fruit in art


Be sure to take some time to stop and smell the roses!

--Suz Massen, Chief of Public Services, Frick Art Reference Library