Monday, January 25, 2016

Nature's Bounty at Kew - a review (closes 31st January)

This is the last week of the Nature's Bounty exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens. It closes on Sunday 31st January (10am to 3.45pm).
  • The exhibition is about the paintings of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts in the collection of Dr. Shirley Sherwood. 
  • The flowers which are included are those which include the method used for propagation associated with the flower - which is usually seeds or seeds within berries.
The Yellow Lotus painting by Beverley Allen anchors a wall of tropical plants in the main gallery
It's complemented by works from the collection of Kew. I'm going to focus on paintings owned by Shirley Sherwood for this review
many of these paintings and some paintings on show are the culmination of months of observation, waiting for a pear or apple to ripen so that every stage can be shown.
It's perhaps pertinent to comment that one of the aims of very many botanical artists is to have their work added to this very important and prestigious collection.  It is after all a collection which prompted the very first gallery of botanical art in the world.

After that the next aim is for it to be exhibited in one of the exhibitions of works in her collection at Kew! Dr Sherwood has after all got some c.1,000 paintings in the collection from 25 years of collecting. It's a very real distinction for a botanical artist to have your work chosen for one of her exhibitions at Kew.

[As with the 2015 RHS review, the illness and demise of two much loved and aged kitties accounted for a very odd year last year when it came to reviewing exhibitions. Which explains why I'm only reviewing it now.]

I saw it for the first time last week but was extremely impressed. I found I lingered a tad too long with my magnifier on some paintings which had me intrigued as to technique and skill in both drawing and painting.  So I'm going to try and get back to see it again next week before it closes.

One thing worth mentioning is that the exhibition is beautifully hung with clear themes emerging as you go round. These are not announced to you - the gallery allows you to be intelligent and detect the gentle shift from one type of subject to another. Plus it looks good too!

The Featured Artists and Works


One of the things I particularly like about The Shirley Sherwood Collection is the fact that we get to find out about botanical artists from all around the world.

There isn't a book to go with the exhibition. That's because you can also see many of the works in this exhibition - except more recent acquisitions - in her two books 'A Passion for Plants' and 'A New Flowering'.  For those of us who are huge fans of the books it's a real pleasure to be able to see the paintings 'up close and personal'.

However I do think it's a pity that we don't have a public record of the artists featured in the exhibition and the works on display.  The gallery kindly sent me the labels for the paintings in the exhibition from the gallery so I could make sure I spelt all the artists' names correctly as some of them were new to me.  It occurred to me I could create that public record - which is so important for credibility in terms of exhibitions.  Hence the list of featured artists and works below.

You will find below that
  • featured artists are listed by the country they live in
  • Links to the websites (or related sites) of the artists are embedded in their name.  Some of these took some tracking down!
  • All the works identified are watercolour on paper unless otherwise indicated in captions 
  • Quotations identified after an artist's name and paintings are brief and from the artist's website.
  • Images: 
    • Gallery shots copyright Katherine Tyrrell (by permission of The Shirley Sherwood Galley)
    • Artwork - copyright the artist

Australia

As always there's a very strong showing by the Australian painters of botanical subject matter. You can find out more about these Australian botanical artists on my website - and on their own websites (click the link in the name).
  • Beverley Allen - I always associate Beverley with large and impressive paintings so it was something of a surprise to see that she also paints smaller paintings on vellum. Her paintings have a habit of occupying the pole position dead centre on one of the walls in the large gallery and this one was no different.
A painting begins with a drawing from life, and usually life-size. Then, working in watercolour on Arches paper, colours are layered and blended to capture the play of light and shade that gives form.
    • Yellow Lotus: Nelumbo lutea - the very large painting in the centre of the above photo
    • Pomegranates and Seed Pods of Gloriosa superba (Watercolour on vellum) This smaller painting on a number of botanical subjects is charming - click the link in the name to see it.
  • Susannah Blaxill - I was amazed by her truly wonderful drawings of pears in charcoal. I had my magnifier out and nose up close to the drawings and I still could not work out how she achieved the impressive subtlety of touch and gradation of tone. I'm guessing she masked off while doing them because the quality of the paper surrounding each pear is immaculate.  
    • Pear Study 1: Pyrus sp. (Charcoal on paper)
    • Pear Study 2: Pyrus sp. (Charcoal on paper)
    • Pear Study 3: Pyrus sp. (Charcoal on paper)
Gallery view of Natures's Bounty
Featuring the three pears in charcoal by Susannah Blaxill
Pamela Stagg's Five Florello Pears on the right
  • Susannah's Beetroot is also on display again - and I gather it is the most requested painting for exhibitions elsewhere in Dr Sherwood's collection. Frankly my personal view is you can't get too many sightings of it!  It's both beautifully painted and very eye-catching.  Her website provides an excellent insight into this particular painting (click the link in Beetroot)
Beetroot by Susannah Blaxill
480mm x 640mm
Pineapple by Paul Jones
(acrylic on paper)
  • Paul Jones (1943-1998) - his Pineapple is not a large painting but is curiously restrained compared to some of the images associated with this painter. 
    • Pineapple (acrylic on paper)
  • David Mackay  - He was the botanical illustrator at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney for 16 years and prior to that at the National Botanic Gardens of Papua New Guinea. He has illustrated well more than 200 books and scientific papers and more than 5,000 of his drawings and paintings have been published. His website is a delight and I love the way he mixes monochrome with colour. Also this is his Facebook Page
    • 'Onion Wood: Syzygium alliiligneum' - has great impact. Like Paul Jones he also works in acrylic on paper.
  • Jenny Phillips GM   - runs the Botanical School of Melbourne. She has works in a number of prestigious collections.   
    • Corymbia ficifolia Watercolour on vellum - this has a very nice set of dissections running along the bottom of the page.
  • Margaret Saul - Born in Australia and currently living in the USA and Italy. Her Peanut Tree is a delight (see below) and has both lovely colours and gradations of tint and tone. Interestingly it's a mix of watercolour, coloured pencil and gouache.
    • Peanut Tree: Sterculia quadrifida - Watercolour with coloured pencil & gouache


Peanut Tree: Sterculia quadrifida by Margaret Saul
Watercolour with coloured pencil & gouache

Brazil

  • Alvaro Nunes - Alvaro Nunes will also be featured in the upcoming exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. Brazil: a powerhouse of plants opens on 20th February.  This is Alvaro Evandro Xavier Nunes on Facebook - which has more wonderful images.
    • Annona crassifolia, Watercolour on paper 
    • Dioclea violacea Watercolour on paper
  • Fatima Zagonel - awarded a Margaret Mee Scholarship in 1999 to come to Britain to study botanical painting at Kew. She is also a founding member of the Centre of Botanical Illustration of ParanĂ¡ (CIBP)
    • Crataegus succulenta var. macrantha Watercolour on paper
I'm currently developing a new page for my website on the artists of South America - including the Brazilian artists and aim to finish in time for the new exhibition.

Canada (UK) 

  • Pamela Stagg - born in Nottinghamshire she now lives in Canada. According to Dr Sherwood she's particularly strong on painting fruit and vegetables. You can see her figs below and Five Florello Pears in the Gallery view which also features the Blaxill charcoal pears. 
    • Four Figs: Ficus carica Watercolour on paper 
    • Five Fiorello Pears Watercolour on paper
Four Figs: Ficus carica by Pamela Stagg
Watercolour on paper  

China

  • Marika Kojima - a very attractive painting of strawberries - the fruit positively bounce off the page in 3D glory
    • Strawberries Watercolour on paper
  • Tai-li Zhang
    • Maidenhair Tree: Ginkgo biloba Watercolour on paper

Czech Republic

  • Petr Liska
    • Plum: Prunus domestica (Acrylic on paper)

Germany

  • Regine Hagedorn GM - she won three RHS Gold Medals between 1998 and 2005. I love the way she labels her work - which is worth seeing just for the commendable way she manages to be informative but restrained and uses a monogram as her signature.  Every time I see her labels I resolve that this is the way I am going to do it in future! Such a pity she doesn't have a website as I invariably love every painting of hers that I see.
    • Acorns from the Jura: Quercus robur (Watercolour on paper, image magnified x3.5)
    • Nigella Fruit: Nigella damascena Watercolour on paper - a wonderful spare and stylish painting with a limited palette and exquisite draughtsmanship
  • Viet Martin Kunz 
    • Brussels Sprouts: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera - Watercolour on paper

India

  • Jaggu Prasad - I was interested to see that this painting is unusual in the media and support used. It's a luminous painting and reminded me of small Dutch still life paintings. I'm wondering how many other artists paint in gouache on gesso on a wood panel.

Italy

  • Aurora Tazza - teaches Botanical Painting at the Rome Botanical Gardens and at the Officina dell'Arte. She also has an intere sting blog Hortus Floridus di Aurora Tazza 
    • Vine: Vitis vinifera Watercolour on paper
  • Marina Virdis GM - based in Sardinia, she is an elected member of the SBA and also has work in the collections of RHS Lindley Library and  the Hunt Institute 
    • Erythrina crista-galli (Watercolour on paper) -  a beautiful painting of a climber which fills the picture plane but retains the neutral white background

Japan

  • Mieko Ishikawa GM - She was botanical paintings in the collections of the Hunt Institute, the Lindley Library, RHS, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the Flower Museum, Chiba. She's also a member of the Japanese Association of Botanical Illustration, Hunt Institute Associates, and the American Society of Botanical Artists. Her work is also included in the Highgrove Florilegium. 
    • Acorns from Brunei (Watercolour on paper) - this is a very delicate arrangement of different acorn shapes and sizes. Very restrained and spare in its treatment - and very attractive.
  • Seiko Kijima
    • Vegetables, including Carrot, Potato, Leek and Ground nuts, (Acrylic and pencil on paper)

New Zealand

(Left) the series of six watercolour paintings of "A Brilliant Life - Papaver Orientale" by Denise Ramsay 
which won her an RHS Gold Medal in Autumn 2014.
(Right) an 'Oriental Polly' and a 'Poppy Seed Head' by Brigid Edwards
  •  Denise Ramsay - This is an artist who has had a brilliant start to her professional career as a botanical artist. She won RHS Gold at her first attempt, then had her complete suite of six paintings bought by Dr Sherwood - and now they occupy the premier wall (facing the entrance to the exhibition) in this exhibition.  I particularly liked the use of white frames which allow the subjects to shine.
  • Terrie Reddish - awarded a gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society's December 2008 show for her study of Phormium tenax (NZ flax or harakeke, in Maori). One drawing was bought by the RHS Lindley Library and another was bought by Shirley Sherwood.
    • New Zealand Flax: Phormium tenax Pencil on paper - I can well understand why this won a Gold Medal. It's very impressive and I had my magnifier out again to appreciate the true quality of this work.
  • Sue Wickison - here's my photograph of Sue at the exhibition of new works 'Black and White in Colour' at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery when Dr Sherwood bought this painting (on the left in the photo below)
    • Seed Study, Bird of Paradise Plant: Strelizia reginae pods Watercolour on paper
    Sue Wickison with her Strelizia reginae pods at the exhibition where Shirley Sherwood bought it

    Norway

    • Hedvig Ă˜stern Wright 
      • Cloudberry: Rubus chamaemorus Watercolour on paper

    Russia

    • Yuri Ivanchenko - Based in Ekaterinaburg. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow. 
      • August (pea): Pisum sativum Watercolour on paper - His painting of a pea plant growing flat against a wooden shed with the aid of some poles is fresh, convincingly three dimensional - on paper - and most attractive and different from other botanical paintings. I like the context and the extra insect life we get as a result.
    August (pea): Pisum sativum by Yuri Ivanchenko
    Watercolour on paper

    South Africa

    • Barbara Pike
      • Chinese Lanterns: Nymania capensis Watercolour on paper
    • Ann Schweizer (1930 - 2014) - the resident artist for the South African Museum of Natural History for many years.
      • Cluster Fig: Ficus sur Watercolour on paper
      • Pomegranates: Punica granatum Watercolour on paper
      • Bushman’s Melons: Citrullus lanatus, Watercolour on paper
    • Vicki Thomas - this is her Facebook Page
      • Pillansia templemannii Watercolour on paper 
      • Haemanthus albiflos Watercolour on paper

    Switzerland (Poland)

    • Diana Lawnniczak
      • Hedera helix Watercolour on card

    Thailand 

    Dr Shirley Sherwood and Phansakdi Chakkaphak at the Artists Preview of the exhibition
    to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her Collection - at the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery last summer


    • Phansakdi Chakkaphak - unfortunately this gentleman from Thailand does not have a website (the link is to his bio on a gallery site). However he has sold rather a lot of paintings to Dr Sherwood of late. The ones in the exhibition are just some of them.  I love his work - but I'm not a fan of the emphasis he gives to painted titles and signatures.  There again I'm a fan of Regine Hagedorn's approach on this matter!
      • Walnut: Juglans regia Watercolour on paper 
      • Almond: Prunus dulcis Watercolour on paper 
      • Honesty: Lunaria annua Watercolour on paper 
      • Vine: Vitis sp. Watercolour on paper 
      • Golden Dewdrop: Duranta erecta Watercolour on thin board - this one shows every stage from bud to ripe fruit. His paintings also demonstrate his unusual watercolour technique.

     UK

    • Katharine Amies 
      • Pumpkin ‘Rouge vif d’Etampes’: Cucurbita maxima, Watercolour on paper
    • Jenny Brasier  
      • Plum: Prunus sp. (Watercolour on vellum) - this was both a tiny painting and life size. It was close cropped and presented in a large wide frame which suited it very well - it made it seem like a jewelled icon.
    • Vicky Cox (1943-1999) 
      • Spanish Onion: Allium cepa, Colour pencil drawing 
      • White Onion and Skin: Allium cepa, Colour pencil drawing  
    • Brigitte EM Daniel - awarded six Gold Medals and one Silver-Gilt Grenfell Medal. She work in a number of prestigious collections
      • Indian Bean Tree: Catalpa bignonioides, Watercolour on paper
    • Elisabeth Dowle 
      • Pear ‘Conference’: Pyrus ‘Conference’ Watercolour on paper
      • Kiwi Fruit and Prickly Pear: Actinidia chinensis and Opuntia sp.,Watercolour on paper 
    • Margaret Ann Eden 
      • Tropical Bergamot and Cherimoya: Monarda sp. and Annona cherimola, Watercolour on paper
    • Brigid Edwards  - She works on vellum and I think it's safe to say that Dr Sherwood likes her work a lot!  
      • Artichoke Flower: Cynara scolymus Watercolour over pencil on vellum
      • Red Onion: Allium cepa Watercolour over pencil on vellum
      • Redcurrants: Ribes rubrum Watercolour over pencil on vellum 
      • Oriental Poppy: Papaver orientale Watercolour over pencil on vellum
      • Poppy Seed Head: Papaver somniferum Watercolour over pencil on vellum - tiny spots on tops of tiny strokes to achieve the 3D effect in this impressive and popular painting
    • Daphne Gradidge - paintings of honesty
      • Development of Honesty II: Lunaria annua Watercolour on paper
      • 'Red’, Autumnal Fruits Watercolour on paper 
    • Coral Guest   
      • Screwpine Fruit Seed Pod, Borneo: Pandanus sp. Watercolour on paper this demonstrated a very fine painting of the intricate hairs. I also liked the fact that the work was given a good margin to breathe when matted and framed.
      • Two sketches of:
        • Edible Pomegranate: Punica granatum Watercolour sketch 
        • Edible Pomegranate: Punica granatum Watercolour sketch – vertical section

    Watercolour sketch of a vertical section of an edible pomegranate Punica granatum by Coral Guest
    This view omits the many pencil notes on the sheet of paper
    • Flappy Lane Fox
      • Magnified Walnut section: Juglans nigra Watercolour on paper
    • Joanna Langhorne - became the official artist at Kew Gardens from 1973 to 1980. She has exhibited widely.
      • Mountain Ash: Sorbus aucuparia Watercolour on paper
    • Anna Mason GM
      • Blackberry ‘Fantasia’: Rubus fruticosus ‘Fantasia’ Watercolour on paper - Oddly this is not one of the best paintings I've seen by Anna.
    • Angeline de Meester - In 2007, Angeline was awarded a Gold medal at her first RHS Botanical Art Exhibition of "Plants with Animal Names in their Common Names" followed by sales of her paintings to both public and private collections, including the Lindley Library and Dr Shirley Sherwood. 
      • Botanic Symbiosis ‘December ’ Clematis vitalba climbing on Hawthorn: Crataegus monogyna (watercolour on paper)
    • Susan Ogilvy
      • Three Apples (Watercolour on paper)
      • Cherries (Watercolour on paper) - this emphasises the wonderful twisty characteristic  of the cherry stalk - an aspect often omitted from other paintings of cherries.
    Cherries by Susan Ogilvy
    Watercolour on paper
    • Rachel Pedder Smith
      • Five Month Old Marrow (Watercolour on paper)
    • Rosie Sanders GM  - Winner of five gold medals. Rosie has been described in the past as the described as the best painter of apples in the world. She is well known for creating and illustrating The Apple Book - currently on sale at the gallery. She's also known for creating very  large works and/or trying different ways of painting a subject - note the dandelions.  
      • String of Garlic: Allium sativum Water colour on paper
      • Devonshire Quarrenden Apple: Malus cultivar Watercolour on paper 
      • Tom Putt Apple: Malus cultivar Watercolour on paper 
      • Dandelion: ‘Two o’clock’ Charcoal with watercolour on paper 
      • Dandelion: ‘Three o’clock’ Charcoal  with watercolour on paper
    Tom Putt Apple by Rosie Sanders
    watercolour on paper
    The use of three apples enables better description of the apple
    and the use of odd numbers is always aesthetically more pleasing
    • Pandora Sellars - the artist who triggered Shirley Sherwood's collection of botanical art
      • Hippeastrum Buds and Seed Capsule: Hippeastrum sp. (Watercolour on paper 1999)
    • Ann Swan  - one of the leading coloured pencil artists
      • Mangosteen: Garcinia mangostana Conté pencil and pencil on paper
    • Emma Tennant
      • Crab Apples: Malus sp. Watercolour on paper

    UK (Australia)

    • Annie Farrer - She started by doing plant illustration in the Department of Botany at the British Museum (Natural History). She's provided illustrations for a number of flora at Kew and two handbooks for BSBI, won five RHS Gold Medals and in 1988 was the first person to receive the Jill Smythies Award from the Linnean Society.
      • Clematis: Clematis orientalis Watercolour on paper

    UK (New Zealand)

    • Bryan Poole - one of the few botanical artists who's working in fine art print-making - in particular copperplate etching 
      • Banana Palm Flower & Fruit: Musa x paradisica Copperplate etching

    UK (Poland)

    • Barbara Oozeerally - became a botanical artist in 1995 after purchasing Dr Shirley Sherwood's book, "Contemporary Botanical Artists". Recently illustrated the book Magnolias in Art and Cultivation
      • 3 Seed Heads of Banksia menziesii (Watercolour on paper)

    UK (South Africa)

    • Peta Stockton
      • Acacia sieberiana: Single Stem Paperbark (Gouache on paper)

    USA

    • Anne Ophelia Dowden (1907-2007) - died age 99 in 2007. She found the study of nature absorbing and often disappeared when certain plants were in flower as she always drew and painted from live specimens.  The Hunt has a repository of the most extensive collection of Dowden original watercolors and ink drawings (438), research drawings, publication layouts and correspondence through a gift from the artist.
      • Autumn Foliage and Berries, Watercolour on paper
    "Anne Ophelia has got to be the country's leading botanical artist," James White, curator of art at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which owns about 300 of Dowden's watercolors and drawings, said in an interview with The Times last year.
    • Noel Grunwaldt 
      • Two Pears: Pyrus sp. Watercolour on paper
    • Kate Nessler - based in Arkansas and one of Dr Sherwood's favoured artists - she has a lot of Kate's paintings in her collection. This is an artist who prefers to paint on vellum. To date she has had a significant number of solo exhibitions at Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery. 
      • Jack in the Pulpit: Arum maculatum,  Watercolour on vellum
      • Wild Grapes: Vitis vinifera Watercolour on vellum
      • Bittersweet: Solanum dulcamara Watercolour on vellum on board - I think it was this one where it was very disappointing not being able to get near enough to it - due to it being behind a display cabinet.  
    • Dick Rauh - taught in the botanical illustration program at the New York Botanical Garden and illustrated A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter: Herbaceous Plants of Northeastern North America

    USA (Belgium) 

    • Gertrude Hamilton - a member of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society. She is represented by Susan Frei Nathan.
      • Red and Purple Currants, Raspberries, Snail and Bee,  Watercolour on paper - I'm a fan of those who introduce the wildlife into their garden on a page. It reminds us that fruit does not exist in a vacuum - despite the white background.  Gertrude paints on what is described as "antiqued paper". Quite what this means I don't know.
    Red and Purple Currants, Raspberries, Snail and Bee by Gertrude Hamilton
    Watercolour on paper

    USA (Germany)  

    •  Monika de Vries Gohlke - a professional artist, designer and botanical illustrator
      • Papaya: Carica papaya Hand coloured aquatint etching - Great to see another artist doing hand made fine art prints. (This image is to the left of the Blaxill Pears in an image earlier in this post)

    USA (UK)

    • Katherine Manisco - lives between New York and Rome and is a member of ASBA and two florilegium societies - Chelsea Physic Garden and Brooklyn.
      • Fruiting Palm: Areca sp. Watercolour on paper
      • Savoy Cabbage: Brassica oleracea, Watercolour on paper - I love it when people paint vegetables the way they really are - with holes where the slugs have had a chomp and with outer leaves that are no longer in the best condition. This is what they really look like!
    Savoy Cabbage: Brassica oleracea by Katherine Manisco
    Watercolour on paper

    The next exhibition at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery


    The next exhibition will be Brazil: a powerhouse of plants: Margaret Mee, pioneering artist and her legacy from February to August 2016. It highlight artists influenced by Brazil and its flora.

    I'll be aiming to review that one when it opens!

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