Blue Island: The Hydrangea in Art

"Their blue, is the blue that adorns the Azores on lipid days...this is a blue that is even more blue, the bunches of flowers of a colour more intense and more fresh. They are in every direction: rising along the roads and the fields forming hedges; they serve to divide the parcels and to cover the peaceful animals."

- Raul Brandão, As Ilhas Desconhecidas


The Portuguese writer Raul Brandão (1867-1930) was describing the blue hydrangeas that cover the island of Faial in the Archipelago of the Azores. The native flowering plant of southern and eastern Asia was introduced to the Portuguese island by explorers returning from Japan to the mainland. The acidic soil on Faial is what produces the blue color of the hydrangea and Brandão poetically called the island, Ilha Azul.


The blue flowers have also inspired artists. Agnes Goodsir (1864-1939) was an Australian painter who lived in Paris during the 1920's and '30's. Although remembered primarily for her portraits, her still life of blue hydrangeas with Tahitian pearls is enchanting. The Belle Époque painter Paul César Helleu (1859-1927) was also known for his portraits as in his pastel The Lioness with Blue Hydrangeas. English painter Augustus William Enness (1876-1948) specialized in landscapes of the Lake District but incorporated a bouquet of blue flowers into his From a Lakeland Window: Hydrangeas.