Peonies and the Protractor

When the worlds of Horticulture and Geometry collide, you get Art which is both dynamic and formal all at once. Nassos Daphnis, is a renowned cultivator of hybrid peonies and a painter with a deep understanding of nature’s Geometry.

He immigrated from Sparta in Greece to the United States where he worked in his uncles’s shop in Manhattan’s flower district. In his spare time he drew the plants that surrounded him. When World War II started he was drafted into the Army where he camouflaged trucks in Italy and made topographical maps in Germany. But it was on a visit to his homeland in 1950 that he was captivated with the way light seemed to transform colour into flat planes.

Daphnis believes that colours have a strict order – black being foremost, with blue, red and yellow progressively receding toward white, which represents Infinity. In the mid-60’s Daphnis introduced concepts from Geometry into his Art to create a hard-edged painting style that was a precursor to Minimalism, the style that became popular in the late-60’s and early-70’s.

But Nassos Daphnis is a great horticulturist, too. He is famous in the gardening world for having developed the most esteemed varieties of tree peonies grown today. He named the crossbreeds of his flowers after artists or characters from Greek mythology including Hephestos, Nike, Pluto and Gauguin.

Nassos Daphnis died last month on November 23, but his death was announced only last week by his son, Demetri. Daphnis was 96 and died from Alzheimer’s disease.


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