Written by: Emily Sabens, Public Relations Intern

Charles Courtney Curran was an early impressionist painter in America during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Curran is best known for his elegant portraits, which often depicted women and children. He used loose brushstrokes in his artworks, and painted with vibrant colors. Today, his paintings reside in institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Peonies,” housed in the David Owsley Museum of Art, is a perfect example of Curran’s graceful, elegant work. The woman depicted in this painting is most likely Curran’s wife, Grace; he often used Grace as inspiration for his artworks.


Charles Courtney Curran. Peonies, 1903. Oil on canvas. David Owsley Museum of Art. Gift of the Muncie Art Association. 1975.500.007


While Grace is definitely a focal point in this painting, the beautiful, blooming peonies also take center stage. Large double peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are native flowers of China. Blooming in late spring and early summer, these flowers can be white, rose or a vibrant pink.

Curran used peonies in this particular artwork for a reason. During the Victorian era, people started to use flowers to convey special meanings and traits. In the Victorian era book titled “The Language of Flowers,” peonies are meant to represent shyness––a trait that Curran believed described his wife, Grace.

Be sure to stop by DOMA to see “Peonies,” located upstairs in the Ball Brothers Foundation Gallery. And if you’re feeling inspired by the beautiful flowers, be sure to join us for our annual Art in Bloom event on May 18.