Art of Botanical Illustration
Travel and Exploration
plants and flowers have fascinated botanists and amateur gardeners alike
ever since the first specimens arrived in Europe around the mid-sixteenth
century. Voyages of exploration and colonization brought back plants and
animals for the royal gardens and for wealthy private collectors. Spanish,
British, Dutch, French and German governments were interested in the medicinal,
economic, and scientific uses of the new natural products. As the British
empire expanded around the globe and plant material was sent home, the
Royal Gardens at Kew became a center for the study of botany. Later, American
explorers made botanical expeditions in the growing country, introducing
hundreds of new species into cultivation.
Because of the difficulty
of transporting live specimens to Europe from the Far East and the Americas,
many explorers took artists with them to document plants and animals in
their native environment. For example, Captain Cook traveled with a botanist
and five artists during his round the world voyages.
Description des Plantes de Amérique... Paris: Imprimerie
The French king Louis
XIV sent the Minims friar Charles Plumier to the Caribbean to bring back
plants and drawings. Plumier's six thousand original drawings were the
basis for this work and were later used by Linnaeus as type specimens
for his Species Pantarum of 1753.
Description des plantes nouvelles et peu connues, cultivees dans
le jardin de J.M. Cels. Paris: De l'impr. de Crapelet, an 8,
This work describes
the plants in the private garden of a wealthy gentleman. Jacques-Martin
Cels (1743-1806) acquired many exotic plants from naturalist-explorers
and was influential in stimulating the public's interest in new
species. Cels asked Ventenat to produce an illustrated catalog of
the many rare plants in his garden. The text includes information
as to where the plant was found and by whom.The copper plate engravings
were done from drawings by Redouté.
Flora Americae Septentrionalis, or, A systematic arrangement and description
of the plants of North America. 2nd ed. London: Printed for James
Black and son..., 1816.
a German botanist, emigratd to America in 1799 and worked in Philadelphia
and New York. During the War of 1812, he moved to England and completed
this work. This was the first North American flora to include plants from
the Pacific coast, which Pursh obtained from Bernard M'Mahon, the Philadelphia
nurseryman entrusted with the specimens brought back from the Lewis and
The North American Sylva, or, A description of the forest trees
of the United States, Canada and Nova Scotia ... Paris: Printed
by C. D'Hautel, 1819.
comprehensive, illustrated book on American forest trees was the
result of three trips Michaux made to the United States between
1785 and 1807. Michaux was originally looking for trees to build
ships for the French navy. Among the artists involved in the project
was P. J. Redouté. Redouté's skill is evident in these
stipple engraved plates in the way the plants have a naturalness
and gracefulness often lacking in the work of other artists.
Magazine, or, Flower-garden displayed ... (London : Printed
for W. Curtis by S. Couchman).
Botanical Magazine sought to popularize and encourage the cultivation
of new and wild species which were being discovered on botanical
explorations around the world. It was first published in 1787 and
is still published today. In its two hundred-year history, it has
contained over ten thousand color illustrations. Many of the best-known
British botanical illustrators have produced illustrations for the
magazine. Curtis's is also noteworthy for its hiring of women illustrators
throughout its history; in fact, during this century, most of its
artists have been women. For
most of its long history, all
of the illustrations in the magazine were hand-colored. They did
not make the change to printed color until 1948.
Sir Joseph Dalton
The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya: being an account, botanical and
geographical, of the rhododendrons recently discovered in the mountains
of eastern Himalaya, from drawings and descriptions made on the spot...
2nd ed. London: Reeve, Benham, and Reeve, 1849-1851.
Hooker, the son of
the first official Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, traveled to
the most remote places in the world collecting and sketching plantlife.
He documented the plants of New Zealand, India, and West Africa, in addition
to the Himalayas. His field sketches were drawn on lithography stone by
Walter Hood Fitch, himself a skilled botanical artist. These boldly drawn
and colored images appealed to the Victorian love of the exotic.
A Monograph of the Genius Lilium, by Henry John Elwes; illus.
by W. H. Fitch. London: Taylor and Francis, 1877-80.
H. J. Elwes
was not a professional botanist, but a collector, naturalist, and
traveller who collectedspecimens of lilies during trips to the Himalayas
and Korea. The monograph discusses the geographical distribution
and cultivation of the flower and includes all varieties then known.
All of the illustrations were done from live specimens and were
drawn and lithographed by Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892). Two later
supplements were completed, the latest completed in 1962.
Jas. (James) Bateman,
The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala. New York, Johnson Reprint
Corp.; Amsterdam, Theatrvm Orbis Terrarvm Ltd. .
The Orchidaceae of
Mexico and Guatemala, originally published from 1837-1841, was one of
the most elaborate productions depicting exotic flora. Only a hundred
and twenty-five copies were printed. According to the art critic Wilford
Blunt, the book is "probably the finest and certainly the largest botanical
book ever produced with lithographic plates." The illustrations were taken
from watercolor paintings done by Miss Drake and Mrs.Withers. The contributions
by these two talented women went virtually unnoticed. Almost nothing was
written about their contribution to the book. This copy is a modern facsimile
of the original.
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