"What a lovely thing a rose is!" - Arthur Conan Doyle
Flowers, the rose in particular, have long been an enduring inspiration for artists, writers and designers, and adapted and interpreted by creatives into a varied range of art, fashion and textile designs. Much of the fascination with the rose arises in the contrasts found between the soft, velvety petals of the flower against the hardness of the thorns on the stem. These stark differences of the bloom have been used to create allusions to beauty, love, danger and even death by artists. This exhibition explores the myriad ways in which the rose motif has been adapted mainly in both fashion and textiles through a range of very covetable products. It is a theme that has of course been explored before, not least in this very blog (here) in part at the V&A's blockbuster Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. A section of which explored the designers love of gardening and dresses created as a result of his love of flowers. Another exhibition currently on show (here) is Roses on the top floor of the flagship Alexander McQueen store on Old Bond Street which directly addresses the labels' fascination with the rose. Much of the content in Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose is immediately visually impressive as well as enlightening and informing. There are contributions from photographers Nick Knight, and Tim Walker, and exquisitely fashioned bejewelled, sculptural roses by Oliver Messel and Erté, and a dramatic necklace of rose thorns which have entrapped a finch by designer Simon Costin. The rose is adapted skilfully into high fashion in outfits by Alexander McQueen as mentioned, and Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, as well as outstanding couture millinery by designers Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy, and Lulu Guiness's iconic Rose Basket bucket bag featuring silk roses. The curators also examine the social history of the rose in which we see depictions of Flora the goddess of flowering plants and the ways in which roses have come to personify the female form. Curators also touch on roses portraying queer sexuality in the illustrations of JJ Grandville and Walter Crane. The adaptation of the rose as a symbol of political protest by the suffragettes in the form of enamelled lapel badges was something previously unknown to me. The collection of ephemera in the form of vintage photographs and postcards of Rose Queen festivals in villages throughout the country were really charming, as were the equally ephemeral, delicate, clay sculptures designed to gradually erode over time by award winning ceramicist Phoebe Cummings. I hadn't been back to the Garden Museum since the Ivon Hitchens exhibition of 2019 (here), so after the Rose exhibition it was time to reacquaint myself with their permanent collection, and the stunning architecture and stained glass windows of this deconsecrated former church space. As the weather was so good I made the effort to climb the 131 cramped stone steps to the top of the clock tower to be rewarded with the stunning views of Lambeth Bridge and the Palace of Westminster along the Thames from the viewing platform at the top.