In Flanders Field
In Flanders Field holds a special place in the Butler’s permanent collection. This, being one of the most celebrated paintings by American Impressionist Robert Vonnoh, was purchased directly by the museum’s founder, Joseph G. Butler, in 1919.
This masterpiece, originally titled “Where Soldiers Sleep and Poppies Grow,” is a large landscape featuring a woman gathering flowers, amidst a vibrant field of poppies, while accompanied by two children seen playing in the background. The heavy application of material and energetic brushwork is best viewed from a distance, a characteristic of Impressionism. Although, a closer inspection shows the lengths to which Vonnoh went to create his masterpiece.
Vonnoh later changed the painting’s title (at the request of the Butler) to “In Flanders Field.” While his thickly laid poppies act as a symbol of the blood of fallen soldiers in the battlegrounds of Belgium and France, Vonnoh’s work was created in 1890 – a full twenty-five years before WWI where this would have taken place. It could be argued that this painting inspired poet John McRae’s poems about the Remembrances poppies used to celebrate the men who died in those very fields.