Winterthur – Designing with Flowers

Winterthur – Designing with Flowers

MFA Floral Arrangers and Guides Storm Philadelphia

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Many of you know that for the past four years, I have been a Flower Associate at the MFA. At the end of the four years, both tour guides and flower arrangers take a trip together to a destination where there is an abundance of art and flowers to suit the interests of all. This year we travelled to Philadelphia, where the highlights included Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Longwood Gardens, The Barnes Collection and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, walking tours and of course, fabulous meals! Now that we are Senior Associates, we can continue to contribute to the MFA in many ways- doing tours, flower arranging, working at the Sharf Information Desk, flower demonstrations and continuing the friendships we have made during our tenure there.

The first stop on our trip was the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware. Though first settled by his forbearers in 1839, Henry  Francis DuPont was in his forties when he inherited Winterthur in 1926. During his period of occupancy until his death in 1969 he collected 60,000 objects dating from 1650-1840. His main focus was placing mostly 18th century objects, including historic paneling,  in a 20th century Colonial Revival setting. After World War II every vestige of the personal side was ripped out, and Henry turned the house into a museum filled  with rooms devoted to the decorative arts.  A Decorative Arts graduate training program with the University of Delaware was started in 1951, and in 1992 the galleries were opened to the public.

The MFA flower arrangers were invited into the flower room at Winterthur where staff members were creating beautiful arrangements for the museum. There is an extensive flower arranging program there, and we were very envious of the huge cooler where the flowers are stored! The rest of our tour focused Henry’s love of flowers and gardens, and we saw floral motifs in many of the fabrics, rugs, wallpapers, furnishings and ceramics he collected. I also learned that the flower arrangements at Winterthur are characterized as either Neoclassical small arrangements with one type of flower or Colonial Revival arrangements that are larger in scale with multiple types of flowers. Here are a few photos I took on the tour, all related to flowers. Although one might not choose to decorate one’s home in the Colonial Revival style, there is much to be learned about interior design, architecture, and landscape design while at Winterthur.

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To Henry DuPont, his gardens were everything. As we approached the museum, we saw azaleas in full bloom!

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The Conservatory. Gorgeous, isn’t it? Winterthur has special events here year round.

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Drying flowers in the flower room. The dried flowers are used to create a dried flower tree which is on display during the holidays.  You can check out how they do it here. It’s quite spectacular.

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Floral porcelain pieces were on display throughout the museum.

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A very ornate porcelain sconce with chinoiserie, gilding, and flowers.

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Hand painted floral wall paper with a pair of neoclassical (one flower type) arrangements in floral containers.

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Beautiful baby grand piano, hand-painted wallpaper and flowers.

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We found this vintage Zuber wallcovering from France in one of the hallways. I have a friend who has Zuber wallpaper in her living room, and it’s to die for.

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The Winterthur staff changes the furnishings, tables settings and flowers regularly. The dining room is set for spring right now. And check out the silk tulip arrangement! I’m not too proud to use silk flowers, are you?

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Needlepoint floral rugs may not be “in” right now, but this one is lovely in its design, color and craftmanship.

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This grand gilded mirror with a petite arrangement in front is charming! There were large and small arrangements throughout the museum.

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Here is a bed with a partial canopy in a classic Tree of Life pattern. It’s one of my favorite design motifs, and there are many versions -both traditional and modern- available today!

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And finally, I learned a new word at Winterthur. Do you know the name of this type of vase? It’s called a quintal. I’ve seen containers like it, but never knew the official name. For a small container, it holds a lot of flowers!

We also saw a great exhibit at Winterthur called “Dining by Design.” You can look forward to hearing all about it in my next post!

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