A Line out of the Winter Vortex | Review of “Portraits of Flowers” by Gerard Brender à Brandis and Patrick Lima. (1995) The Porcupine’s Quill.

Recently as the depths of winter brought my spirit down, I turned to an old favourite that I had often looked but never reviewed. Portraits of Flowers showcases the engravings of Gerard Brender à Brandis with the words of noted gardening enthusiast Patrick Lima.

Introduction by Patrick Lima – Page iv
Emptiness confronts us with a challenge. Gerard Brender à Brandis, maker of the wood engravings in this book, suggested to me that a teenager covering the plywood walls around a construction site with graffiti may simply be acting on a universal impulse to fill bare spaces with colour and form – an artistic outburst heedless of reviews
As a wood engraver, Ger (as friends know him) understands blank surfaces, the starting point for each new work. A block of boxwood, the end-grain polished smooth and plane; a set of steel burins or gravers sharpened so as to make precise grooves, hollows and nicks in the wood; ink and paper: these are the tools of his trade. And a keen eye: an artist needs to hone many skills, among them the capacity for observation – the unhurried gaze of the day dreamer.

Brender à Brandis is a talented engraver and the words that Lima adds to each print adds a flare that makes this book enjoyable to flip through over and over again. Easily a reader could be transported to spring in the midst of any winter day.

3. Wild daffodils Narcissus triandus ‘Angel’s tears
The daffodils of most gardens (and most imaginings) are big and boldly yellow. But in uncultivated corners around the Mediterranean, native narcissus species, smaller and possessed of a wild grace, spring up in old olive groves, on mountain slopes and sunny plains. Among their numbers is ‘Angel’s tears’ a dainty Spaniard found on hillsides strewn with limestone rocks, often ringing its cream-white bells under rosy bushes of heather.

Snapshot of Brender a Brandis's engraving
Snapshot of Brender à Brandis’ engraving

Brender à Brandis is a favourite engraver of mine. His lines are strong and detailed. The words that Lima adds to each engraving adds to the strength to each line Brender à Brandis cuts to show each bloom

35. Helen’s Flower Helenium autumnale
The sun, helios, shines in helenium’s name and in its round rayed flowers. Another of the vast Compositae or daisy family, this native plant and its hybrids stand tall in the late summer garden. As befits the season, the bloom in an autumnal palette of warm yellow, burnished orange, mahongany streaked with gold – echoes of the changing trees. Splendid at the back of borders, heleniums make notable accents with the grace ful foliage of ornamental grasses. Few perennials bloom as long, from mid-August through September.

Snapshot of Engraving #35 "Helen's Flower"
Snapshot of Engraving #35 “Helen’s Flower”

While the flora of spring and summer may seem far away, they are easily imaginable in Portraits of Flowers by Gerard Brender à Brandis and Patrick Lima. A great read for these dreary days of winter.

 

 

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