Saturday, August 01, 2015

"Flowering Bulbs and Tubers" - Exhibition by the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists

It's always really interesting to see the different approaches - in terms of style and media- used by the botanical artists of another country.  The "Flowering Bulbs and Tubers" exhibition by the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists can be seen in Galleries 2, 3 and 4 at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery in Kew Gardens. It provides an excellent opportunity to view how the Dutch do it - and they do it very well!  The work on display is excellent and the standard of presentation was also very good.

Lots of reds, pinks and purples in this exhibition
If you visit you can also see two other exhibitions before all three close on the 9th August. (Apologies for the late reviews!)

Artwork for Sale

This exhibition has paintings for sale.

I'm not too sure how many artists have realised that the Shirley Sherwood Gallery puts on exhibitions of paintings for sale. The first one I went to was the 'Black and White in Colour' - an exhibition of art for sale by two botanical artists Sue Wickison and Sue J Williams - which I reviewed in 'Black and White in Colour' at Kew Gardens - a review.

I must do a blog post at some point outlining the process for getting accepted for an exhibition and how the process works!

General Observations

The focus of the exhibition is flowering bulbs and tubers - a somewhat predictable choice for the Netherlands. I noted the following as I viewed the exhibition.
  • there were a lot of drawings and paintings which involved roots - and it's clear that some artists consider this as much a design challenge as anything else.
  • I was particularly struck by how much pink and purple - of every hue and tonal range - could be seen in  the exhibition. I wasn't too clear whether this was due to personal choices or reflects the colours which tend to be chosen for cultivation.
Below you will find images and comments - plus the names of the artists whose artwork I liked and links to their websites.

At the end is a note about the Society.

I liked the 'almost' uniformity of the framing used for the exhibition.
It really helped to give it a sense of a coherent identity.
On the right is Fritillaria persica in coloured pencil by Sigrid Frensen
  •  I first met botanical illustrator Esmée Winkel at the RHS Botanical Art Show in 2013 - where she won a Gold Medal and I interviewed her (read my interview with her) . It was great to see her work again and, in particular, I loved the sense of the imperfections of the plant in her watercolour painting of 'Belamcanda chinensis'
  • In the photo at the top you can see Tulipa 'Zomerschoon' by Anita Walsmit Sachs (b. 1948). It demonstrates very fine gradations of colour in the leaves and shows all stages of growth of the tulip in five blooms. Anita has worked at the Nationaal Herbarium of the University of Leiden as chief of the art department since 1998. Her pen and ink drawings have been published in numerous scientific publications and she has received an RHS gold medal.  She was also the perdon who led the formation of the Society.
There's some considerable interest in pencil artwork on the Netherlands
  • Sigrid Frensen (b1972) has a coloured pencil drawing of Fritillaria Persica which demonstrated very fine pencil work and sinewy growth from bloom to bud. This is Sigrid's blog post about it called 'I love big bulbs and can not lie' where you can see a bigger version of the drawing. 
  • Ineke Smeets's contribution was two coloured pencil drawings of allium which were extremely well done. They had a very spare and elegant design - you can see one in her website portfolio.
  • Nicolien Bottema-Mac Gillavry (b1941) I can't quite make sense of my notes and wonder if the autocorrect in Evernote has been misbehaving again (it's not very tuned to Latin!) Anyway I've got a note of a work which I have down as "Chrysalis cava". My notes also say it's an attractive botanical illustration in watercolour minus the size indicators on dissections.
  • There were also some some great graphite drawings by Els Hazenberg-Meertens (b1942) - see below
Left and Centre - graphite drawings by Els Hazenberg
'Chasms (?) the floribunda' and 'Hippeastrum hybrid'
Note: the Vereniging van Botanisch Kunstenaars Nederland is the Dutch name for the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists. It was founded in 2006 and celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. The Society was formed from a small group of enthusiastic professional and non-professional artists from across the Netherlands with a keen interest in botanical drawing - 44 in total. Most had attended Anita Walsmit Sach's courses at the Botanical Garden at Leiden. Since then they have progressed and developed, and many initiatives have been undertaken to achieve their aims: 
  • To provide information about botanical art and to bring it to the attention of as wide a public as possible
  • To bring together botanical artists, illustrators and anyone interested in botanical art.
  • To improve the quality of botanical art in the Netherlands
The group now numbers 170, Members have the opportunity to attend courses by  reputable botanical art tutors from other countries - notably the UK. Past visiting tutors have included Valery Oxley (2009), Anne Marie Evans (2010 & 2012), Elaine Searle (2011), Jenny Phillips (2013 Australia), and Helen Allen (2014).