Large antique floral still life painting by W. J. Wainwright

By Wainwright, William John (English, 1855-1931)


This elegant still-life painting depicts a large vase filled with a sumptuous array of summer flowers, set against an idyllic classical backdrop.


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This superb oil painting is by the British artist William John Wainwright (1855-1931). Wainwright was associated with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) for 50 years, and acted as its president for the final two years of his life. The society became highly influential in the later Victorian period, with Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and John Everett Millais all members. This painting however seems more inspired by the large-scale 17th and 18th century Dutch floral still lifes, which Wainwright likely saw whilst studying in Antwerp between 1880 and 1884.

The painting depicts a large vase, filled with a wide array of summer flowers. Poppies, delphiniums, fuchsias, crown imperials, roses, and other blooms spill out of the vases, rendered in an eye-catching palette of pastel shades. These vibrant colours are contrasted by dark green leaves, which poke out through the blooms. Wainwright’s painterly skill is evident in the degree of verisimilitude – the delicate texture of the petals is expertly rendered. The petals overflow from the vase and fall onto the marble ledge below, seeming to almost fall out of the canvas: Wainwright effectively conveys a sense of life and abundance.

The painting is filled with other organic life: a pair of butterflies dance around the canvas, whilst a snail slowly climbs the marble ledge. In the right lower corner sits a bird nest with three speckled eggs inside, which was a popular icon for Victorian still lifes.

Classical influences pervade throughout the painting, adding to the sense of idyll. The vase itself is decorated with relief decoration, which depicts two winged putti and two women dressed in typical classicised dress. In the left background stands a marble figural group that is highly reminiscent of classical statuary. The marble ledge in the foreground and expansive terrace in the right background both utilise classical architectural forms.

The painting is signed in the lower left-hand corner ‘J. Wainwright’, and is ensconced in a carved giltwood frame. 

A smaller, similar version of this painting – also by Wainwright – sold at Christie's, London, 30 November 2001, lot 94 (£21,150).

This painting combines floral beauty with a tranquil classical setting, creating an idyllic still life that would be sure to brighten any home.

Canvas: Height 127cm, width 101cm
Frame: Height 144cm, width 120cm, depth 7cm


Artist / Maker
By Wainwright, William John (English, 1855-1931)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Late 19th Century
Late 19th Century
Floral, Still life
Giltwood, Oil on Canvas


144 cm / 56.7 inches
120 cm / 47.2 inches
7 cm / 2.8 inches


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