by Pierre-Joseph Redouté
I just loved the pictures and could sit and stare at them for hours. You can see the sort of thing I mean in these botanical illustrations.
I started to learn about the different styles of the various botanical artists whose work was represented. Slowly I began to learn the names - which always seemed to me to be slightly odd - otherwise known as being foreign!
On my break, I did a bit more studying of botanical art and botanical artists and began to put together some more information sites including Pierre Redoute - Resources for Botanical Art Lover
Pierre-Joseph Redouté was one of the names I first learned from the RHS publications. He was the man who painted the beautiful roses and lillies. I've now learned that in total he produced over 2100 published plates depicting over 1800 different species, many of which had never been rendered before. I wonder what it must have been like documenting plants which had never been drawn or painted before!
Redouté's art was the first art I came across where, although botanically accurate, the emphasis appeared to be more on the art than the botany. I've now learned that the major initial influences on his work were the Dutch and Flemish flower painters of the baroque period (such as Ambrosius Brueghel, Rachel Ruysch, Jan van Huysum and Jan Davidszoon de Heem).
One of the things I'm finding particularly fascinating is how botanical art has been produced over the years. In the case of Redouté he originally went to London and Kew in 1786 to learn the art of stipple engraving and color printing which was to provide him him with the technical expertise needed to produce his beautiful botanical illustrations. Latterly, he certainly developed to perfection a method of colour application which involved the use of a minute chamois leather or cotton mop for the application of a succession of colours to a copper engaving. In later years, he also learned how to paint using pure watercolour - from a Dutch artist, Gerard van Spaendonck.
Patronised by the last Queen and the first Empress of France
I also found out that Redouté's profile is in no small way due to his patronage by two of the premier first ladies of European history - which is quite a unique claim!
by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun
Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress Consort of the French François Gérard
After the Revolution. Josephine Bonaparte, the first Empress of France, wanted to fill the the gardens of the Château de Malmaison with the rarest plants from around the world. Redouté prospered under the patronage of the Empress Josephine and the engravings from Redoute's drawings of those plants during the early years of the 19th century are considered to be his best work. These include:
- Etienne Pierre Ventenat's Jardin de Malmaison (1803-04),
- Aime Bonpland's Description des Plantes Rares Cultivees a Malmaisonet a Navarre (1812-17),
- Les Liliacees (1802-16) Les Liliacees is considered by some to be his masterpiece
- and finally Les Roses (1817-24).
I'm on a bit of a roll with my botanical art studies so expect a few more of these. Some like Margaret Mee are well known while others I only learned about as I started to find out more about botanical art. Coming up are:
- Basilis Besler
- The Bauer Brothers
- Geogre Dionysius Ehret
- Margaret Mee