Painting Flowers – The Tulip – What’s In A Name?

by Neadeen Masters on April 17, 2012

Painting Flowers – So how did the ‘tulip’ first get its name ‘tulip?’

Many artists who love painting flowers also enjoy learning the history of their favorite flowers. There is a legend for how the flower got its name. Here is but one of a few, but no one can be sure. Some believe that during the sixteenth century a misunderstanding took place and the real name for tulips was misinterpreted. Originally cultivated in Turkey, the tulip bloom is still known there by its native Turkish name of ‘lale’ pronounced lah – lay.  The story goes that a Flemish gent by the name of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq while in Constaninople (known today as Istanbul) admired the beautiful flower. The story suggests that since the Turks wore big turbans on their heads and were also fond of tucking a tulip into the turban for decoration; the Flemish gentleman soon seeing this flower showing up everywhere and turned to his interpreter one day, pointed to the flower in someone’s turban as if to ask what it was.  The interpreter misunderstood his intent and thought he was pointing to the red turban and responded to him, “Tolibam.” Or ‘Tulbend’ Some folklorists believe this is how the flower got its name, ‘Tolibam’ eventually evolved to what we know as ‘tulip’  some say unbeknown to the Flemish gentleman who happily went back home to the Netherlands telling everyone about the lovely ‘Tolibam’ flowers he had seen growing all over Turkey!

Historical sources suggest that de Busbecq who was the ambassador to the court of the Turkish Sultan by the name of Sultan Suleiman during that period and that he is the one who gifted the tulip bulbs and seeds to the now famous botanist Carolus Clusius from Vienna. It is also explained that the Latin meaning of ‘Tolibam’ translates to “tulipa”.

Tulip Flowers are still popular subjects for artists to paint!

Regardless of the name…the tulip flower still tugs at our hearstrings and causes artists to paint her and dress her in beautiful colors. Artist Sue Pruett who loves painting flowers, uses the single tulip motif as one of the paintings in her refined blending class and her students love to paint this vibrant flower. The color streaks that create her petal patterns seem to attract us all and the more streaks the better we like to blend them.

It makes us wonder, if the great sultan of Turkey knew or ever imagined that hundreds of years later, his prized tulip flower would be featured on canvas paintings around the world. Would he then have gifted the tulip flowers so freely? It does make us wonder….The tulip flower is still popular with artists because of it’s simplicity of form. The flower petals are fairly simple and easy to render. They come in hundreds of brilliant colors and have interesting streaks and markings. Unlike the rose flower which has a complex structure, the tulip by comparison is far different, and for the beginning artist it is not that difficult for them to paint a successful painting.

Style of Tulip Flower Paintings

Floral paintings have been depicted in many ways. Artists have rendered them in just about every painting style imaginable. From the detailed painting style of the Old Dutch Masters to the loose and casual styles of the impressionistic  artists of the nineteenth century. How you choose to paint your tulip subjects depends on your skill and experience and personal taste. There are no rules when it comes to choosing styl. The flower can be depicted as a formal subject or as casual as a simple garden flower laying in a basket. Regardless of the style, the flower will continue to be a star among artists of all skills.


learn-to-paint-blending-techniques-art-apprentice-online Refined Blending Class with Sue Pruett – Art Apprentice Online

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