Where local lilies and lotuses live

March 29, 1998|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN STAFF

Baltimore is set to go gaga over waterlilies this week when the Walters Art Gallery puts on display 22 of Claude Monet's paintings of his garden in Giverny.

But what did lily lovers do before Monet came to town?

A check of local museums and galleries turned up few resident images of the delicate blossoms, which are close cousins to tulips, hyacinths, onions and asparagus.

Both the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Gallery have images of lotuses, which are related to lilies. But lotuses grow with their blossoms sticking up in the air while lilies' blossoms lie flat on the water. Lotuses are a member of the pea family -- but that's as much from our ninth-grade biology class as we care to remember.

The BMA has a 13th-century Chinese stoneware vase with glazed lotus flowers and leaf designs on display in the Asian gallery. Over at the Walters there's a 17th-century Chinese porcelain bowl with lotus motifs on display in the Hackerman House.

In sculpture, there's the dancing fountain nymph in Mount Vernon Place just west of the Washington Monument, who seems to be borne up by a profusion of bronze lily pads blossoming just above the water's surface. (Some people, alas, think the vegetation looks more like plain old cattails.)

Plenty of local artists are willing to satisfy the demand for lilies. Last week at Bendann Galleries in North Baltimore no fewer than three regional artists had created images of the lovely flowers.

Anne Gaver paints watercolors of lilies growing in the pond on her farm in rural Maryland. Rita Cooper of Bel Air also paints watercolor lilies, but in a more hard-edged, naturalistic style. In oils, John Brandon Sills paints impressionist-inspired landscapes that often include aquatic flora.

Gallery owner Lance Bendann says he doesn't necessarily expect the Monet show to produce a rush of buyers for his impressionist-style paintings.

"But it's interesting to see how the style is still going strong," he said. "It's hard not to like these pictures. They fill the spirit, which is good."

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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