Susan O’Brien McLean, DAISIES WITH ANTIQUE BOWLS,
oil on board, 10 x 8 inches (15.5 x 13.5 inches framed), $600
Loves me … loves me not … loves me … It’s clear just from looking at “Daisies with Antique Bowls” that the artist loves and treasures the simple objects in this still life. “I’ve painted daisies all through my life,” says Osterville artist Susan O’Brien McLean. “The little blue-and-white bowl — I’ve painted it so many times. I got it at an antique market in England.”
Because of her husband’s job, Susie lived in South Africa through much of the 1970s and then in England for 12 years. She went to Wimbledon and the Ascot races and generally immersed herself in the gracious lifestyle of another era. Perhaps because her mother — an Anglophile before her — had china in the blue Willow pattern, Susie began collecting blue-and-white pottery in England. The two little bowls in the painting were relatively inexpensive — probably early 20th-century imitations of late 18th-century antiques. The larger of the two is a teacup. (Teacups were initially handle-less — like those in China — when tea first became popular in England, Susie notes.) “There’s nothing nicer than having tea in a blue-and-white teacup,” she says (while admitting she generally uses a mug these days). “The first painting I ever did in England in the ’80s was all blue-and-white pottery.”
In this still life, she beautifully captured the bowls’ delicacy and luster along with the daisies’ cheery freshness. The challenge, of course, is that daisies don’t last long — and Susie does prefer painting them from life. When her favorite field daisies are in bloom, she drives around with scissors and a vase of water in a box. “I like the small ones you see by the side of the road,” she says. This particular piece was painted over the course of two years because — after her first bunch of daisies faded — she didn’t have time to pick replacements until the following summer.