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John Ferguson Weir
Roses
1898
oil
20 x 30 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Miss A. M. Hegeman



During the Victorian era, when hundreds of books explained the symbolism of flowers, roses stood for love and beauty. Through the appearance of each rose, Weir's painting tells of love denied, hopeful, triumphant, and confused. Assembled loosely in a clear glass vase, the roses twist in all directions with several fallen onto the table. One broken blossom lies forlornly by itself. The impressionist palette came late to Weir, who acknowledged that “I take a long time to understand any new art,” yet noted, “I am satisfied I must paint in a lighter key. My studio is too dark, brown and dull. I must paint my pictures against a white background, hang up a sheet behind my easel.”