Art of Botanical Illustration
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.
Innes Baker Withers.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.