‘A reed shaken by the wind’ is my subject at Old Moor today. I’ve labelled it as the common reed, Phragmites communis, but Wikipedia points out that communis is considered an ‘illegitimate name’ and that I should now be calling it Phragmites australis.
It resists the wind not just by its flexibility and its hollow stem construction but because the leaves, growing from sheathes that clasp the stem can rotate as they’re blown around.
While my habitual pen and brown ink might be appropriate for the reed, but I felt that would be too strident for the white water-lily, Nymphaea alba. Dragonflies zoomed around over the pond but the only insects visiting the water-lily as I drew it were a few flies.
Water plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica, was growing next to it, emerging from the water. Ruskin saw the elegant arrangement of veins in its leaves as an example of the kind of ‘divine proportion’ that inspired Gothic architecture.
When Convent Thoughts, a sharp-focus study of a contemplative nun standing by a lily pond by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Charles Allston Collins’, came in for criticism at the 1851 Royal Academy summer show, Ruskin wrote in a letter to The Times;
“I happen to have a special acquaintance with the water plant Alisma Plantago . . and . . I never saw it so thoroughly or so well drawn. For as a mere botanical study of the Water Lily and Alisma, as well as of the common lily and several other garden flowers, this picture would be invaluable to me, and I heartily wish it were mine.”
Ruskin’s endorsement helped redress the criticism but, although habitat may be right for it, Alisma plantago, the water plantain, doesn’t appear in the painting.