Heritage tulip painting project

Dutch heritage tulips, 16th to 19th C

Historical tulip bouquet by Tanja Moderscheim

I’ve always had a thing for history and heritage. Being a Dutch expat in the United Kingdom (yes, don’t mention Brexit), I’ve long wanted to paint tulips and ideally tulips that were fashionable in 17th-century Holland, when we were even more under the spell of the tulip than we are today. Tulipmania (“tulpenmanie”or “tulpengekte”) was a period (1635-1637) in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637 [Wikipedia].

Do any of the tulips from the tulpenmanie period still exist? Yes, old genetic stocks can still be purchased through Hortus Bulborum, a foundation in The Netherlands that functions as a gene bank and propagates historical heirloom bulbs. Some of these are no longer in commercial production ( Every year I purchase several varieties from between 1595 and 1850 and plant them in my garden. I then paint series of paintings when the flowers surface, which is from mid-April onwards. I keep a photo library as well.

You can see some of the paintings below. Most of the heritage tulips, unlike the ones we have today, have a distinctive crown-like shape and pointy petals; some varieties are comparatively short. Their colour is amazingly deep and rich. Painting them gives me an opportunity to celebrate Dutch cultural heritage.

In the 2019 tulip season (April-May), I’ll be visiting the Hortus Bulborum to paint tulips in their gardens. I’ll be especially looking to record the legendary and rare Zomerschoon tulip, which was first intoduced in 1620 and was very popular during the Tulpenmanie period. I’ll also be on the look-out for the parrot tulip ‘Perfecta” (1750).

A recent newsletter providing background on my latest tulip painting can be read here:

Tulip varieties

Tulips grown in my garden in the 2017/18 season:

Duc van Tol Rood & Geel (1595), Lac van Rijn (1620), Duc van Tol Max Cramoisi (1700), Wapen van Leiden (1750), Keizerskroon (1750), Zilver Standaard (1760), Gouden Standaard (1760), Duc van Tol Scharlaken (1850).

Tulip varieties planted for the 2018/19 season:

Above tulips, and also: Tulipa sylvestris (<1600), Red hue (<1700), Paeony gold (<1700), Duc van Tol violet (<1700), Duc van Tol Rose (1700), Absalon Rembrandt (1780), Purple Crown (1785), Rose Louisante fol. var. (1850), Bessie (<1857), Spaendonck (<1893).

Additionally planted: Fritillaria meleagris (1573).


Dutch heritage tulips 16 to 19 C by Tanja Moderscheim

Dutch heritage tulips, 16th to 19th C, 40″ x 30″ (101cm x 76cm), oil on fine linen


single zilver standaard heritage tulips by Tanja Moderscheim

A pair of Zilver Standaard (1760) paintings, 11cm x 18cm, oil on wood panel


Dutch 17th to 19th C tulips by Tanja Moderscheim

Dutch 17th-19th century tulips, 30cm 40cm, oil on fine linen

3 tulip details by Tanja Moderscheim

Dutch 17th-19th century tulips, detail: Zilver Standaard, Keizerskroon; Duc van Tol Scharlaken, Zilver Standaard; Gouden Standaard


Tulip painting Wapen van Leiden

Wapen van Leiden (1750), 14cm x 24cm, oil on wood panel


Tulip painting Max Cramoisi and Red and Yellow by Tanja Moderscheim

Duc van Tol Max Cramoisi & Rood en Geel, 14cm x 24cm, oil on wood panel


Dutch heritage tulips by Tanja Moderscheim

Dutch heritage tulips, 20cm x 40cm, oil on fine linen


This newsletter can also be viewed here.

February in the Studio: newsletter

Welcome to my February 2018 newsletter. I hope you’ve had a great start to the year! I’ve finally found some time to write this much-needed newsletter, being happily snowed under in painting work.

I’m currently completing three large and small commissioned paintings of fruits and flowers, which have been great and very interesting to work on. I’m also getting ready for five upcoming exhibitions – within the space of four months this a record number for me (and perhaps a bit too ambitious!):

  • Surrey Art Fair, Esher, 23-25 February
  • Affordable Art Fair with Otomys Gallery, Battersea London, 8-11 March
  • Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), Mall Galleries London, 21-31 March
  • Spring Exhibition, Aubergine Art Gallery, Wimbledon, PV 23 March
  • Reading Art Fair, Reading, 20-22 April

Below are a few examples of paintings available at these exhibitions. For an overview of new/available work please get in touch via the contact page.

17th century faience plates by Tanja Moderscheim

Haarlem faience plate with artichoke by Tanja Moderscheim

Sourdough by Tanja Moderscheim

Tickets to the Private Views of the Surrey Art Fair (23 February), Affordable Art Fair (7 March) and RBA Mall Galleries (20 March) as well as daytime tickets, are now available. These can be requested here or via email.


Tulips, tulips, tulips

This year is the first time I’ll be exhibiting tulip paintings; 7 tulips will be on show at the Mall Galleries, Surrey Art Fair and Aubergine Art Gallery. There really is no option for me not to paint tulips, being a Dutch painter!

I’m happy with the initial result- a small parrot tulip was accepted by the RBA for exhibition at the Mall Galleries a couple of weeks after it was painted. Below are images of large and small tulip paintings in progress; these will be available at the Surrey Art Fair and Aubergine Art Gallery.
All parrot tulips from Moyses Stevens, Pavilion Road, Chelsea.


Tulip by Tanja Moderscheim

Five parrot tulips by Tanja Moderscheim

Tulip by Tanja Moderscheim


Partnership with Otomys Gallery

I’m pleased to be working with Otomys Gallery, who will show four of my paintings at the Affordable Art Fair this March (tickets can be requested here or via email). A gallery established in Melbourne, they have just opened a gallery in Tetbury (Gloucestershire, England). If you’re in the area, be sure to visit this friendly space!
Otomys Contemporary Art Gallery United Kingdom
11 Church St, Tetbury GL8 8JG UK

Find out more about available paintings and commissions

Enjoy the first signs of spring…
Until next time,
warm regards

I’ve posted a video of a still life painting in progress. You can see an overview of the following process:

Classical painting technique – time lapse video

Starting with:

    1. a sketch over an imprimatura, a toned, transparent first painting layer;
    2. dead-colouring layers (several sessions)
    3. work-up in colour (several sessions);
    4. glazing and finishing (several sessions).

Plums on a silver platter, oil on fine linen, 60x40cm.


How to paint a Delft blue plate

The dead-colouring stage

I’m working on a new commission: a painting to go with the Silverware with plums painting the client has bought. The painting features a Delft blue plate and several types of fruit scattered on a relatively undefined surface. I break up the painting process in different stages: after sketching the set-up, I first work on the tonal aspects, check the composition and create a ‘map’ ready for the colour stage. I use raw umber and zinc white for this, with titanium white for the brightest highlights. I need several painting sessions to get the light right and provide enough detail. The plate also needs to be anchored to its space: I want it to lean against the wall. The light needs to softly touch the plate and the cracks and chips need to pick up the light – I love this play with hard and soft edges, creating the illusion of soft light and ultimately the expression of a certain atmosphere and calm.

The dead-colouring stage of the Delft blue plate (detail of the still life painting)

The dead-colouring stage of the Delft blue plate (detail of the still life painting)


Delft blue plate

While painting the rest of the set up, I kept playing with the design of the plate.

The colour and glazing stages

Once the dead-colouring stage has reached a sufficiently detailed level, I move on to the colour stage. I use cobalt blue, lapis lazuli, zinc and titanium white as well as raw umber (again) and yellow ochre. In the previous stage I used tonal variations to model the forms, and now using colour I can further bring out the rims and edges of the plate. I want to contrast to be high (but not too high) to help create a certain feel/atmosphere. I’ve FINALLY decided to paint a tulip on the plate. And now it is time for the best thing about this painting – the crack! Using a very fine sable brush, I drag burnt umber paint across the plate to suggest the shadows cast in the crack; variation in line gives the illusion of hairline vs wider cracks. I put in highlights of titanium white.

Painting the Delft blue plate is part of working up the rest of the still life and I come back to it as the painting progresses. I need several sessions. I keep the painting quite light but create just enough contrast. It is important to keep the plate a part of the painting, anchored to it – bringing colours from the rest of the painting into the plate helps with this.


Using very thin layers  of pigment in plenty of medium and also just paint to dry-brush in places, I turn the forms some more and add a bit more depth into the painting. I only glaze those parts of the painting that need further depth and luminosity.


I’m very pleased with the crack.

Delft blue plate


commission a painting

Still life with Delft blue plate, grapes, nectarines, cherries and reine claudes. Oil on fine linen, 70x50cm, 2017.


Commissioning a painting or learning how to paint one

To commission/order a painting, take part in workshops or just to find out more, open the contact page by clicking here or click on Commission a painting.