Fruit Forever


I am so fortunate to own two mid 18th century flower and fruit paintings from the Dutch Master Jan van Os. These reside in my apartment in NYC. 

My still life of fruit piled in a brass wine cooler echoing the painting behind.

When I look back over the endless amount of photos taken of the tables and floral decoration for my various homes, fruit or fruit mixed with flowers is a constant theme in decoration.  As I perused the photos (of just the last few years – I could easily go back 35 years and find more examples) I started thinking about the source of my inspiration and loyalty for this classic duo, and know it came from my love of the 17th and 18th century Dutch Masters who created the glorious still life paintings that I have always loved. 

Fruit was used by the Dutch as a sign of the shortness of life (vanitas.) It was also the perfect subject to display their extraordinary talent with the lifelike quality of the fruit and flowers, through their mastery of color, textures, light and shadow.  Total realism when one looks at each object, but with the completed composition the painting becomes a tableau of fantasy that has always captivated me. The beautifully executed bunch of grapes where a butterfly sits, or the crazy insect that wanders across a luscious flower. My eyes wander through this magical world and get totally captivated as they travel through the painting.



I often use a fusion of fruit with flowers for a classic piece, but when certain varieties are not in bloom, you cannot beat an individual fruit arrangement. The ingredients are so accessible, even more so than flowers, and I usually just use my local grocery store – cherries, pineapple, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, berries all work well. To avoid any waste, we freeze the fruit once taken off display, and use later in smoothies.

I lightly sugar coated the grapes to give them a frosted look on a table in Charleston.

I have used this type of fruit arrangement for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the autumn table I added lemon leaves, although colorful autumn leaves would also be lovely. To change this table for Christmas, I mixed boughs of evergreens and boxwood.


Tips for fruit arrangement :

  • If using a basket or bowl, stack crumpled tissue or craft paper underneath the fruit to build up the base, enabling you to need less fruit
  • If using a platter, lay lemon leaves (or other greenery) underneath the fruit as it frames  the fruit
  • If you need the display to stay in place for a while, you could use floral clay, or attach the fruit with a glue gun (I do this at Christmas to crate topiaries, garlands, mantle decorations or wreaths of fruit)


I also use fruit on packages, gift wrapping, cookies, table settings…..and of course it as been a muse for my watercolor paintings – a far cry from my Dutch heroes, but I can only try!


Regardless of your style and mood: light and playful, or elegant and formal, the use of fruit alone or coupled with flowers works in every environment, modern, rustic traditional and in my classical world.


Just remember the new is built upon the shoulders of the old. 

Stay tuned for Venice and Julian Fellows dinner – should have already posted them but have spent the last week digging up 3,500 dead boxwood and many other deceased plants who were victims of Hurricane Matthew – bah humbug or stronger words…..

46 thoughts on “Fruit Forever

  1. As usual your blog is a feast for the senses! I look forward to each and every one. Thank you! I also eagerly await the pictures from Venice!

  2. Dear Carolyne,

    That last picture is beyond gorgeous.
    You know how to capture my imagination.
    Please leave all your digging and post Venice etc. pretty please.

    Marie. πŸŽπŸ‡πŸπŸπŸ’πŸ‹

  3. Your talent is endless, as is your generosity with sharing! Thank you, Carolyne!

    June Emmert

  4. As an “aging” art history major in college, I also appreciate the Dutch Masters.Your statement…Just remember the new is built upon the shoulders of the old…..rings true in life.

  5. Dear Carolyn
    To live with van Os is hard to imagine. How beautiful. The painting on the bottom made my mouth drop. Is that a Willem Kalf? You did not identify it, but the artist’s handling of ceramic, metal and cloth appears like Kalf. Thank you for the gorgeous images, and for all your hard work – Virginia Billeaud Anderson

    • Hi Virginia—I am not aware of his name and unfortunately cannot remember the name of the artist of the painting….middle aged brain working!!!!! Thank you for liking my posts cr

  6. Carolyne, your watercolours are exquisite. Can only congratulate you on the van Os. I recognize them from one of your books. Since I don’t have Dutch masters, yet, I can at least try other masterpieces of yours. I’m off to the green grocer and get fruit and vegetables in order to make a centerpiece for my table.
    Can hardly contain myself, full of anticipation for your post about our friend Julian.
    Yikes, all that boxwood……..

  7. Beautiful as always, Carolyne. I’m glad to hear that you also use the ‘wadded-up tissue’ trick for conserving on the fruit. I always wondered if I was sort of ‘cheating’ using that technique. But now I can proudly say… “If Carolyne does it…..”. One other thing I do is in a treasured etched glass compote filled with kumquats, I start with a single orange and then cover it with the kumquats. It takes up more space and is so much less expensive than kumquats, And if any of the orange peeks through, it’s not at all noticable. Thanks for another inspiring post.

  8. I appreciate the words of Patricia Freeman starting with “as an aging art history major…”, as I can identify with the aging art major….and “the new is built upon the shoulders of the old”….I am in the process of rebuilding old farm equipment parts into paperweights, recycling other old momentos into collages, and replanting my garden….Spring is ready to burst forth with our 80 degree weather in Northern California. Our evacuation scare is almost over…pray for the snow melt to be less and our Oroville Dam to hold….Happy almost Spring!!

    • Yes I pray for the weather Gods to protect you in California as you have so many years of drought problems and now this. Congratulations on your work. cr

      • Thanks, Carolyne! I love what you do and you are a true inspiration! Your pictures are beautiful!!

        Being retired as a teacher/principal had its challenges….I have always been the artist/writer but had my 3 girls to nourish thru their years of growing up. My art and creativity was put on the backburner….so NOW is the time to get going. Happy Spring!! mapp

  9. Thank you, Carolyne! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Totally beautiful. Delightful! Delicious! Thank you!

  10. I, too, have always been captivated by the Dutch masters oils of floral and fruit arrangements with the addition of a carefully placed butterfly of insect.

    I thought your arrangements were beautiful and showed your artistry in colour, balance and combining objects.

    I am inspired to fill a silver bowl but am wondering if it is alright for the fruit to contact the silver directly? I will use tissue on the bottom but not around the edge where it would be visible. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Keltie I have used fruits in silver many times and have not noticed any harm. I suppose if the fruit started to go bad and release it’s juices could be a problem but I have not had that problem. Mybe I should experiment cr

  11. Oh, how beautiful. I’m going through a move right now and “claiming” a different space, so thank you for the reminder to find beauty or make my own! You are an inspiration.

  12. Impeccable is your taste and a beacon for generations to go. More books please.
    Lynn Ziglar

  13. OMG, Carolyne — 3500 boxwoods?? All of them, gone? Hope you get the new ones at a great price, and they’re planted with love and good wishes from here in Virginia.

  14. So much beauty! Your watercolors are wonderful. I asked in the past if you would consider publishing a portfolio of your watercolors. You said no at that time.

  15. Dear Carolyne,
    Your creativity and impeccable sense of elegance and beauty inspire me so much.
    Thank you for this wonderful post!

  16. I agree. I love the pairing. I used to draw still life of fruit all the time. It’s the one thing that you don’t have to worry to much about proportion like when drawing the human body parts. How lucky are you to have two of the old masters paintings. Everything looks beautiful.
    WAnted to tell you I think you are a wonderful “new Master” yourself. Love your watercolors.
    You should sell a lvoely pack of notecards or 8 by 10’s of yours. Love them.

    • Dear Lisa as ever thank you for your continued support!11 I am going to do just that on the post cards I shall be launching prints and note card collections on my web site.
      Will be in touch soon—just have trouble keeping up on all!!!! fondly carolyne

  17. All so exquisite and beautiful. I particularly love your table setting with the red , white and gold, stunning. There is so much beauty in nature and using fruits and flowers in the home is a celebration of that. Sadly nature can be cruel too, and I am so sad to hear you lost so much with Hurricane Matthew, so devastating. Thankyou for all your beautiful posts .

    • Thank you for your thoughts Victoria – thankfully, compared to some I got off lightly from Matthew. Glad you enjoyed the post, cr

  18. Hello Carolyne from Downunder!

    Thank you for all the beauty you bring into our lives from your magnificent homes and gardens. Your books fill every nook and cranny of my home. On your visit to Sydney last year, perhaps you met with Coty Farquhar or, if not , they gave you a link to her digital “Styling Magazine”. Like you, her love affair with all things beautiful in nature is just breathtaking and an absolute joy! Hopefully see you back here in the not too distant future.

    • Hi Sandy thank you for the information about the magazine I shall check it out and thank you for liking my posts! cr

  19. Hello. Your beautiful watercolors remind me of Maria Sybilla Merrian’s. Have she been an inspiration? I hope you publish them all together (maybe with excerpts of your favorite poems?) Your page is always a source of inspiration for me! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jose you are dead on!!!! I am totally inspired by Maria Sybilla Merian. She was ahead of her time in so many ways. While others were doing strict botanical, entomology, reptiles she combined all in a strong graphic way with vivid color and great composition. ! Happy you enjoy the post and I am going to do something
      soon with the watercolors. cr

  20. An extra beautiful post on this cold and windy day in New York. I stopped at a small flower shop I always use on Monday evening, and brought white mums, and yellow mums, The florist added baby breath, and fern leaves, and made a big arrangement for me – which I brought home and placed in the living room by the windows. Better then milk, bread, and eggs to get through the storm. Many times I think what would CR do, and something beautiful comes to mind. Thank you.

  21. Thank you, Carolyne for sharing this post. Just your table settings, paintings, your own pastels and, indeed, everything you do would make a NEW fabulous book. I too, love the 17/18th Dutch master and they were indeed masters.
    Alas, I live with them in my various scrapbooks!

    Looking forward to Julian Fellowes and Venice.

    Merci, mille fois!

  22. I love the old masters, but I am willing to bet that abstract paintings would also look wonderful and add a bit of whimsy. My house is traditional, but my art is 60% abstract and it blends very well with my salon paintings. The juxtaposition always makes people comment. Just another thought. Definitely, you are very creative and love the way you put fruit together using the right china and glassware. I have mentioned this before, but thin k you should publish on the subject of dinner, glassware and silverware. You seem to have an extensive collection, something I like to do, too. Keep on sharing with us. It is always a pleasure reading you. Best regards, Laura

    • I agree Laura those who have the eye for combining different periods can create a very interesting juxtaposition. But, like with all talents, that takes practice an acute observation and knowledge to do it well.
      As far as the table top collection I would rather create one than write about mine —am working on two other books just now. regards cr

  23. Dear Carolyne,

    All the best to you and I hope you garden will be blooming lovely.

    Marie 🌸🌸🌸🌸

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