A native of Haarlem, Hendrik Reekers received his artistic training in the studios of his father, Johannes Reekers and the great still life painter Georgius Jacobus Johannes van Os. Ultimately, his skill would outstrip both of his masters and he was widely regarded in his lifetime as among the most accomplished still life painters of his generation. Reekers left a regrettably small oeuvre, as he died at only 38 years old and was a self-described meticulous and slow worker, who took his time in completing his highly detailed paintings.
Reekers’s fervent attention to detail is apparent in both the harmony of his compositions and their careful attention to botanical detail. Rather than working directly from a bouquet he assembled, Reekers typically undertook numerous individual botanical studies and then combined these studies into a single harmonious composition. The artist prided himself on understanding the form, origin and significance of each individual flower. Reekers's exceptionally finely rendered work also pays homage to the painter’s artistic forebearers of the Dutch Golden Age. The pronk stilleven of the great seventeenth century painters such as Willem Kalf and Jan Davidsz. de Heem had a significant influence on Reekers, whose works were contemporary reinterpretations of one of the most beloved genres of Dutch painting during its most significant artistic pinnacle.
In the early 1840s, buoyed by the enthusiastic critical and public reception of his works, Reekers began to paint still lifes on a significantly larger scale than before. The present work, with its large scale and complex composition, is an excellent example of this more mature, confident style. In the present work, the profusion of bright red dahlias and dark pink hollyhocks make up the bulk of the flowers in the ewer-shaped glass vase used to contain them. The artist must have been particularly proud of the detail of the peeled lemon, a traditional symbol of the passage of time and a frequent motif in Dutch Golden Age still lifes, as he has placed it right in the center foreground of the composition. It is indeed a masterful rendering, with the curling, mottled skin of the peel and small beads of water on its surface brilliantly captured by the artist. The two small hornets circling the dark-skinned grapes on the ledge, and the butterfly above the hollyhocks, lend more traditional vanitas elements to the composition. Above all, like his predecessors in the genre, Reekers is able to temper the ostentation of the floral elements and bounty of fruit through a sense of refined elegance which permeates his work.