Replicating famous PAFA paintings with flowers

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts wants to remind you that, even after a hard winter -— spring really has arrived.

The Academy’s art galleries are now festooned with 60 flower arrangements, each an interpretation of a painting hung on the walls, including work by Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Mary Cassatt.

“Others museums around the country have art-in-bloom programs, that are usually in the springtime. We didn’t have one here in Philadelphia,” said Krista Katt, co-owner of Schaeffer Flowers in York, Pa. “We thought it would bring a lot of wonderful floral designs into the museums. We wanted to have them be part of something not part of the everyday floral experience.”

Kratt and her husband, Bill Schaeffer, regularly compete in the Philadelphia Flower Show, including most recently in the “Articulture” show wherein they interpreted a Kandinsky painting owned by the Guggenheim Museum. For the last 18 months they have been working with the curators at PAFA to match 60 floral designers from around the country with paintings in the collection.

They reserved the showstopper of “PAFA in Bloom” for themselves — a steel structure 12 feet high, with 8 arches, dominating the building’s center rotunda, representing the design of the building itself (revolutionary for its time, architect Frank Furness designed the PAFA building with an exposed steel infrastrcuture).

Kratt’s steel structure is festooned with thousands of flowers mimicking the deep reds, blues, and violets of the building’s interior.

“We’ve got gloriosa lilies, phalaenopsis orchids, anthurium, seet peas, lisianthus,” said Kratt. “These are wonderful varieites that grow in Japan, and the tropical flowers are from Hawaii.”

The arrangements will be on view this weekend only, because flowers, like spring, don’t last.

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