One of the first mentions of a blue flower came in the unfinished novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” (1802) by Friedrich von Hardenberg (aka Novalis). In it, the character Heinrich has a dream about a “blue flower” representing desire and unfulfilled love.
The “blue flower” became a key symbol of inspiration in Romanticism, which stressed emotion, freedom from rules and dogma, and the belief that imagination is superior to reason. The French painter Louis Janmot is a transitional artist between Romanticism and Symbolism. His most significant work is a series of paintings and drawings, with verse, called “The Poem of the Soul” produced between 1835 and 1881. The series tells of a soul’s life on earth, incarnated in a young man, accompanied by his female double (his soul), who later disappears, and he spends the rest of his life alone and longing. While the blue flower does not appear directly in Janmot’s paintings, his work contains the mystic symbolism of the blue flower, which is about the numinous striving and longing for something distant and unattainable.
The Poem of the Soul 16 – The Flight of the Soul, by Louis Janmot
The heart’s longing often appears as symbols in dreams. Carl Jung in “Psychology and Alchemy” reported a short dream provided to him by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. In the dream, the dreamer goes for a long walk, and finds a blue flower on the way. In Jung’s interpretation of the dream, the blue flower was evoking memories of a more romantic and lyrical age. He said the flower was like a friendly sign, a numinous emanation from the unconscious. Pauli had other dreams in which an “exotic woman” or mysterious woman visited him. He believed she was his soul.
I often use the “Unknown Woman” in my paintings to represent our soul. The unknown woman also comes through my work as a child. In my painting “The Dreamer Finds a Blue Flower” the Unknown Woman makes her appearance as a child morphing out of the geometric quantum field (the unconscious). I never know when or how she will show up in a painting. When she visits me in the studio, it is like catching up with a friend in a coffee shop. I noticed later that the child has six fingers, which is historically significant. More about that at another time. . .