Bloom: Flowers in the Archives of American Art


A beautiful bloom proclaims the perfection of nature. This exhibition explores how artists have drawn inspiration from flowers. The sketches and drawings on view are works in progress—seeds for future works of art—reflecting an artist’s unique process. Many artists observed and recorded the smallest of details, diagramming a flower’s anatomy and life cycle. Some attempted to replicate the exuberance of a blossom, focusing on glorious colors and sensual surfaces. Others abstracted petals, stems, and pistils into fantastical designs. Artists also communicated in the language of flowers with personal correspondence, dried floral arrangements, and still life illustrations.

This exhibition was organized by the Archives of American Art in collaboration with Smithsonian Gardens. The labels were written by archivists, horticulturalists, artists, curators, educators, and gardeners to articulate the many facets of flora. The various perspectives highlight the cross-pollination of ideas between the natural world and American art history, and more broadly, the generative intersection of art and science. All documents on view are from collections in the Archives of American Art.

About the Gardens

Smithsonian Gardens extends the Smithsonian’s museum experience in a public garden setting, inspiring visitors with exceptional displays and educating them about horticulture, plants, the natural and built environments, and artistic design. Find more about the Smithsonian’s gardens and explore collections online at