Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Joy of Spring - an exhibition of works in the Shirley Sherwood Collection

The Joy of Spring is coming to an end at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. The last day of the exhibition is the 9th August after which the gallery closes for the installation of the next exhibition.  It's an exhibition which is well worth seeing...
The Joy of Spring features a sequence of glorious paintings of spring flowers, each selected from the contemporary Shirley Sherwood Collection. This exhibition displays an array of wonderful spring flowers, from snowdrops through to magnolias and camellias. Iconic spring blooms such as daffodils and bluebells will also be included in the exhibition.
For those who have not seen it you can find some highlights below.  

I made notes on my iPhone while going round of the artists whose work I found particularly attractive and/or interesting.  While looking up the best links online to each artist I discovered some more information about them - which you can also find below.

One of the interesting things I noted when matching paintings to artists' websites is that there appear to be absolutely no records of the paintings bought by Shirley Sherwood on their websites. Nor do they seem to be available as prints. Just a thought for those aspiring to join the collection one day.

I found it interesting comparing the styles of paintings of different artists. Some make them completely lifelike while some are rather over stylised so that they look 3D but somehow don't look too real - perhaps because they are too perfect. I wonder if this reflects the change in tastes and styles of botanical painting over time?

My favourite painting is Susan Christopher Coulson's 'The Winter Garden, scented twigs and feisty flowers' which captures perfectly all those flowers which are part of the transition from winter to spring. I'm also a huge fan of her compendium drawings which are always designed both thoughtfully and effectively. I always spend ages staring at her artwork.

'The Winter Garden, scented twigs and feisty flowers'

© Suan Christopher Coulson
Other paintings I very much liked included:
This exhibition featured selected artworks done by Marilena Pistoia of Modena, Italy, for three publications: F. Bianchini and F. Corbetta, I Fruitti della Terra (The complete book of fruits and vegetables) and Le Piante della Salute (Health plants of the world: Atlas of medicinal plants) and Laura Peroni, Il Linguaggio dei Fiori(The language of flowers), all published in Italy by Arnoldo Mondadori between 1973 and 1984 and subsequently in America by Crown and by Newsweek. The artist donated all the original paintings for these books to the Institute.
Some of the paintings in the exhibition
Far Left: Susan Christopher Coulson
Next: Snowdrops by Kate Nessler
  • A huge wonderful painting of dandelions and other flowers by Rosie Sanders called ferns bluebell wild garlic yellow archangel and dandelion 
  • There is a stunning pink rhododendron painted in gouache on black paper by Sally Kier (who died in 2007).  Her obituary in The Guardian notes...
She was commissioned by Shirley Sherwood, a renowned collector of botanical art, to paint a pink rhododendron, which featured in her worldwide exhibition of botanical art in 1997. Her paintings were also included in the gouache section of Margaret Stevens' book, The Art of Botanical Painting. She sold more than 450 works, and several of her paintings were used as greetings cards and sold commercially.

  • Mieko Ishikawa's painting of flowering cherries (Prunus pendula) is impressiveShe apparently paints within three themes only:  “Flowering Cherries of Japan”, “Tropical Rainforest Plants of Borneo” and “Conifers.” There's a nice article about her on the ASBA site - Mieko Ishikawa's Story Behind the Art which focuses on her painting of the mysterious Rafflesia, a parasite of vines in Borneo.
  • There's a delightful painting by Pandora Sellers of Snakeshead fritillaries and cowslips 
  • Jessica Tcherepnine's 'Crown Imperial' looks as if it's dancing! The leaves are wonderful. 

TIP  Do one painting really well and others will commission you to do more!

Jones’ major book, Flora Superba (1971), published in the same year that he was awarded an OBE for his services to art, carried a preface from Sir George Taylor, Director of London’s Kew Gardens: ‘They are technically astounding, scientifically exact and aesthetically so thoughtful and pleasing that, without risking hyperbole, I would rank them amongst the very finest achievements in the whole gallery of botanical art.
  • Olga Makrushenko (b. Russia 1956) has a painting of a deep pink magnolia, painted in mixed media on paper. This is a gorgeous deep pink colour and design and it's a very fine painting (which is second from right below)

Extreme left - In the background is the painting by Paul Jones
and second from right is the painting by Olga Makrushenko

Also included in the exhibition are the working drawings and the finished artwork produced by Julia Trickey for the Royal Mail for the Post and Go Collection - British Flora (Spring Blooms) Stamp Set. Julia has also produced a publication Plant Portraits by Post (Published by Two Rivers Press) about the process and pitfalls of producing the Royal Mail British Flora illustrations.  Plus a painting from her last exhibit at the RHS Botanical Art Show.

Julia Trickey's artwork for the Royal Mail's British Flora (Spring Blooms) Stamp Set
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