Lilac Watercolor

June 01, 2016 Posted by: David R. Daly

A watercolor of a lilac bush, done by Edith Longfellow in 1860.

The arrival of May at the Longfellow House has traditionally also welcomed the blooming of the many lilac bushes on the property. This small watercolor painting, measuring only 4 ¼" high by 7" long, was done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's daughter Edith when she was just six years old. As he did with much of his children's artwork, Henry annotated the back of this piece, writing "Lilac bush; by Edie – May 30, 1860."

The lilacs have long been an important part of the landscape surrounding the Longfellow house. First planted by Longfellow in 1844 shortly after he and his wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow took over ownership of the house at 105 Brattle Street, they quickly became some of Henry's favorite features of his property. In a May 31, 1847 diary entry, Henry recorded "What a cold May we have had! However, the foliage is heavy and green as in England, and the lilacs are in bloom ..." He also reportedly once wrote a letter to a friend stating that he was not likely to leave his home and venture into town while the lilacs were flowering. Longfellow's association with lilacs was so strong that a "double magenta" variety of the common lilac was named for him in 1920, the 'Henry Wadsworth Longfellow', S. vulgaris.

Last updated: June 1, 2016

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