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The Art of Botanical Illustration
Women Illustrators

Women were active as botanical artists from at least the eighteenth century, but until recently their contributions were rarely acknowledged. While their work is most apparent in books aimed at a general, and often primarily female, audience, they also contributed to many major books of scientific botany. Important horticultural journals including Curtis's Botanical Magazine, The Pomological Magazine, and the Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society, all included many contributions by women artists. In some cases, the women had husbands or other family members in the horticultural field, in others; the women solely supported their families by their work. Critics not only ignored the work of women, but also trivialized their contributions, suggesting that the work was too good to have been done by a woman. The first major study of women botanical artists, Women of Flowers: A Tribute to Victorian Women Illustrators by Jack Kramer was published in 1996.


Viridarium

Henrietta Maria Moriarty, fl. 1803-1812.
Viridarium: coloured plates of greenhouse plants, with the Linnean names, and with concise rules for their culture. London: Printed by Dewick & Clarke for the author, 1806.

Little is known about the life of Henrietta Moriarty who wrote and illustrated several botanical books as well as a novel. In a later edition of Viridarium, Moriarty wrote that the study of the Linnean system of botanical classification, while scientifically correct, should not be taken up by the young because of its emphasis on the sexual function of plants.


Augusta Innes Baker Withers.
The Pomological Magazine; or, Figures and descriptions of the most important varieties of fruit cultivated in Great Britain. London: J. Ridgway. Volume I.

The first three volumes (1828-1830) of the magazine were illustrated entirely by a well-known floral artist and teacher. She exhibited her work at the gallery of the Horticultural Society and worked as an illustrator for Curtis's Botanical Magazine. She was one of artists for James Bateman's Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (1837-1841) which is still considered to be one of the great botanical books of the nineteenth century.


Anne Pratt, 1806-1893.
Flowers and their Associations. London: C. Knight, 1846.

One of the most successful woman botanical artist of her time, Anne Pratt wrote and illustrated twenty books on botany aimed primarily at a popular audience. Although her illustrations were both accurate and attractive, she was criticised because of her lack of formal scientific training. Even fifty years after her death, the art historian Wilfred Blunt, suggested that her illustrations "owe a good deal to the artists...who redrew them on stone." He put forward no basis for this remark which could, of course, be said of any artist who did not do their own engraving.


Mrs. (Jane) Loudon, 1807-1858.
The ladies' flower-garden of ornamental bulbous plants. London: W.S. Orr [1849].

The fifty-eight hand-colored lithographic plates in the work were all done from Loudon's drawings. She also produced similar volumes on perennials, wild flowers, and greenhouse plants. Jane Loudon was the wife of John Loudon, an important nineteenth-century landscape gardener and horticultural writer. She turned to popular horticultural writing to pay off her husband's debts.


Elizabeth Twining, 1805-1889.
The Plant World. London; New York: T. Nelson, 1866.

A member of the wealthy Twining tea family, Elizabeth Twining had the leisure to pursue her interests in art and botany. She wrote a number of books on flowering plants as well as many books on religious and social issues. Her original artwork for the books are in the collection of the British Museum.


Wild Flowers of the Pacific Coast

Emma Homan Thayer, 1842-1908.
Wild Flowers of the Pacific Coast. From original water color sketches drawn from nature. New York: Cassell Publishing Co., 1887.

Emma Thayer studied and exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York. After moving to Colorado in 1882, she began writing and illustrating books on the native wild flowers. Her books combined travel adventure and botany as she described not only the native flowers, but also her experiences while hunting for the plants.


Illustrations of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Falkland Islands

Mrs. E. M. Cotton
Illustrations of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Falkland Islands. London: L. Reeve & Co., 1921

The botanical plates were drawn by Mrs. Vallentin, a native of the Falkland Islands who had studied botanical illustration in England with Matilda Smith of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is very unusual to have hand-colored lithographic plates in a book produced in 1921, since chromolithography replaced hand-coloring almost entirely by 1870.
Lent by Marnie Flook.


A supplement to Elwes' Monograph of the genus Lilium

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

Lilian Snelling (1879-1972), for thirty years the principal artist for Curtis's Botanical Magazine,was one of the last of the botanical artists who worked in the nineteenth century tradition. Until 1948, she redrew her original water colors onto zinc plates for reproduction, then hand-painted a master print for a team of colorists to copy. However, modern technology finally replaced this labor intensive process and from 1948 until her retirement in 1952 her plates were reproduced photographically. She also produced plates for this large-scale production.


Margaret Mee.
Flowers of the Brazilian Forests. London: Tryon Gallery in association with George Rainbird, 1968.

Margaret Mee (1909-1988) was one of the best-known botanical artists of the twentieth century. She found her calling while traveling to Brazil with her husband. She stayed in Brazil, taught and exhibited there, and gained a world-wide reputation for her highly individual style of botanical illustration.
Mee was not only a gifted artist, but also an explorer, botanist, and ultimately, conservationist. On fifteen trips in a dugout canoe on the Amazon and its tributaries, Mee discovered and recorded the exotic flora of the Brazilian jungles. Hers was one of the first voices to be raised for saving the Amazon rainforest as she spoke about the damage caused to the fragile environment by illegal mining and logging.



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