University of Delaware Library

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The Art of Botanical Illustration
Modern Botanicals

During the twentieth century all types of botanical illustration including scientific works, descriptions of exotic species, horticultural advertising, and decorative works, flourished. Advances in printing technology have made beautifully illustrated botanical books available to a mass audience. Technology has also made possible high quality facsimile editions of early works. Women continued to take a major role in the field; in fact, in the twentieth century, the major British botanical magazines have been predominately illustrated by women.

Artists continue to be inspired by the beauty of flowers. Many artists are reinterpreting traditional horticultural literature such as herbals and florilegia. Contemporary book artists have produced works with hand colored engravings and decorated covers that harken back to the elegant books of the late eighteenth century. The joining of botanical art and poetry, so popular in the nineteenth century, also continues with such major artists as Jim Dine, Leonard Baskin, and Donald Sultan working with important poets to produce limited edition works of the highest quality.

Supplement to Elwes' Monograph

Arthur Grove, 1865-1942.
A supplement to Elwes' Monograph of the genus Lilium. London; Dulau: Royal Horticultural Society, 1933-62.

The Australian painter Margaret Stones (1921- ) has been working at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for half a century. She has produced more than four hunded drawings for Curtis's Botanical Magazine as well as working on individual monographs. Her watercolor paintings of flowers display the delicacy and fragility of living flora. Her work is frequently exhibited in art galleries.

Tulips & Tulipomania

Wilfrid Blunt, 1901-
Tulips & Tulipomania; with sixteen plates from paintings by Rory McEwen. London: Basilisk Press, 1977.

Rory McEwen (1932-1982) was one of the most influential twentieth century botanical artists. Although his flowers are highly detailed and botanically correct, they float in space in a dramatic, almost surreal manner.

John Nash, 1893-1977.
John Nash: twenty one wood engravings. Netherton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire: Fleece Press, 1993.

Nash, who referred to himself as an "artist plantsman," developed his love of gardening as a child in rural England. He illustrated many books on horticulture and taught a course on plant illustration for many years at the Flatford Mill Field Centre. He wrote that a good plant drawing will "conform to the need for accuracy combined with the spark of a live drawing" while a poor one "may serve its purpose but gives no feeling of the living subject."

California Flora

Elizabeth May McClintock, 1912-
California Flora. with wood engravings by John DePol. San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1995 ([S.l.]: The Press in Tuscany Alley).

John DePol. (1913- ) is an illustrator, printmaker, and wood engraver who has worked with many book artists and private presses. The University of Delaware Library holds a collection of his papers, including many examples of his work.

Language of Herbs

Jane Conneen.
Strawberries. Their History & Uses. The Little Farm Press, 1995.
Language of Herbs. The Little Farm Press, 1990.
Language of Herbs II. The Little Farm Press, 1991.
Language of Herbs Three. The Little Farm Press, 1994.
Violets. The Little Farm Press, 1993.

All of the books are written, illustrated, hand-colored, printed, and bound by Jane Conneen at her press in Bath, Pennsylvania.
Gift of Marnie Flook

Twelve Flowers

William Voss.
Twelve Flowers. Tympan Alley Press, 1983.

Voss, a book designer and typographer, studied printmaking at the California State University, Fullerton. He has worked at the International Museum of Graphic Communications in Buena Park, California and as a printer for several small presses including the Lyceum Press and the Ampersand Workshop.
Gift of Marnie Flook

Gehenna Florilegium

Anthony Hecht, 1923-
The Gehenna Florilegium. Rockport, Me.: Gehenna Press, 1998.

The term "florilegium" or flower book was first used in the seventeenth century for books that highlighted the illustrations of beautiful flowers. Unlike herbals or gardening manuals, these books emphasized the decorative quality of flowers, rather than their useful properties. They were popular again in the nineteenth century, as gift books that often combined pictures of lovely flowers with sentimental poetry.

The Gehenna Florilegium which pairs the poetry of Anthony Hecht with the color woodcuts of Leonard Baskin, refers back to both these traditions but with a very modern result. Like the ornate flower books produced for the wealthy seventeenth century collector, the Florilegium combines the highest quality of book design, and fine press printing with the work of a renowned artist.


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Last modified: 12/21/10


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