Sunday, July 20, 2008

Find out about the history of botanical art

1) Iride 2) Viola porporina
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli - Biblioteca digitale - Dioscurides Neapolitanus

I've always been really interested in the historical aspects of botanical art but I've been finding out more and more about it ever since I visited the new Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew in April and saw, for the very first time, botanical art which had been drawn or painted by the acknowledged experts in this field.

Since then I've been digging around on the internet to find more sites about the history of botanical illustration - and have found that there's quite a lot to look at. As a result I've created a new resource for those interested in learning more about the history of botanical illustration - The History of Botanical Art - Resources for Botanical Art Lovers. It includes:
Various artists have earned a reputation for either producing excellent work and/or developing the practice of botanical art through exploration. I've decided to also develop a group of information sites devoted to a number of these artists who have either been of historical significance and/or excellent in relation to the development of botanical art - one is completed and a number of others are in draft.

Completed sites
Sites in draft
  • Basilius Besler
  • Georg Dionysius Ehret
  • Sydney Parkinson
  • Bauer Brothers
  • Pierre Redoute
  • Margaret Mee
To be honest I think I'm beginning to like historical botanical art even better than contemporary botanical art. That's maybe because so much of it has really interesting stories associated with it - but I also really like the stylised drawings in the herbals. I believe Morris, Monet and Mackintosh were all fans of herbals as well - so I think maybe I'm in very good company!

Note about the illustration:
Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-ca. 90) was an ancient Greek physician,
pharmacologist and botanist, who sought medical substances from all over the Roman and Greek world. He practised in ancient Rome during the time of Nero and is famous for writing a five volume book De Materia Medica. This is one of the most influential herbal books in history, provided a basleine for all modern pharmacopeias and remained in use until about 1600. A number of illustrated manuscripts of the Materia Medica survive, some of them from as early as the 5th through 7th centuries. The most famous of these early copies is the Vienna Dioscurides (512/513). The Illustration is from Codex ex Vindobonensis Graecus 1 in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli
Wikipedia - Dioscorides



Jeanette said...

I love some of the very old drawings of botanticals that were very simplistic and often based on folklore such as the mandrake root. The almost naieve drawings are very appealing and, as you said, the stories around them make you want to find out more.

Its probably one of the reasons I became so interested in herbalism.

Robyn said...

Bravo for this post, Katherine. I'm about to explore the links. I missed it when you first posted. I too find the old botanical illustrations the most fascinating.

weird amiga said...

I was just looking for old botanical illustrations, and now I have a whole library at my fingertips, thanks to you!

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