Peonies are among my favorite flowers. They were my first subject, painted on craft paper in the early 90's. I'd come home to a frigid sleety February in NYC from a month long business trip in Spain, sick as a dog. I noticed the Korean delis were aglow with splash of pink and white peonies in the grey gloom while out getting my prescription at the drugstore. I bought an arm load, stopped at an art supply and sat down to paint during my recuperation.
I remember peonies in the childhood gardens of my mother and grandparents. Giant cabbage rose blossoms of satiny, pleated multi-petaled fragrant blooms that were fragile, too often rain ruined, ephemerally short lived, but always miraculously at peak for my May birthday. I am still showered by bouquets of them by my friends and family on my birthday, to the oint of my apartment looking like a flower bower. Heaven.
Later I discovered those familiar bloom were herbaceous Paonia, perennial flowers that died back in the Fall to reemerge in Spring, their shoots starting pinky red, thrusting up to 3 feet and producing fat round buds that seem to require a stampede of ants drumming on them to unfurl. Still later I found that there were tree peonies, 5 plus foot wood stemmed shrubs from China that bloomed with saucer sized single petaled flowers with gigantic central stamens, anthers and pistils laden with pollen that had been the exclusive pleasures of the ruling caste until exported by plantsmen of the 18th Century where they were planted and hybridized all over Europe and the US.
Years later my friend and patron, famed photographer Oberto Gili, commissioned paintings of some of the Tree Peonies grown at his farm in Italy. More recently I did a new group of both the herbaceous and tree varieties. This large pink one is currently being shown at the YVE Gallery New Orleans. I love how the blossoms thrust through the leaves, reaching for the light, inviting the bees to pollinate them.