"Perhaps more than any other genre, botanical illustration highlights [the] balancing act between truth and beauty, a balance that the best artists are able to turn to splendid visual effect. From the Renaissance down to the New Millennium, botanical illustration has remained one of the principal methods by which plants have been taxonomized, anatomized, and published in scientific references."
That's what I love so much about this form of illustration -- no matter how homely or mundane the subject, the artists are able to see and portray its essential beauty. I wouldn't have said that marijuana was a particularly pretty plant until looking at the above picture. Now I can see it is both graceful and quite interesting.
One of my favorite memories was of going to the movies with my brother when we were kids in Madrid. Our shortcut to the theatre was through a wheat field. When the wheat was green and only a couple of feet high, it was full of those poppies. I loved gazing into them, and the contrast between their lacquered red and black petals and the bright green of the wheat. Also, en masse they have a distinctive and pleasant smell.
This is by an artist who dissects his floral subjects in order to create blueprints of them ~
A side view of Lathyrus odoratus L. 2009-2012. By Macoto Murayama. Image courtesy of Frantic Gallery. image & caption from Smithsonian.com
“An image of a thing presented with massive and various information is not just visually beautiful, it is also possible to catch an elaborate operation involved in the process of construction of this thing,” Murayama once said in an interview.
Google today has created a doodle in honor of Anna Atkins: 16 March 1799 – 9 June 1871, an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. Some sources claim that she was the first woman to create a photograph. source, Wikipedia
More & more interesting information here, complete with photos.
Ohhhh ~ thank you for that! I'd never heard of Hugh Turvey before. I wonder how he adds the color, which is so delicate & perfect for each subject. I looked him up online, & in a Natl Geo. article about him, the very first question is from a radiation technologist who wondered the same thing.
Some great new additions to this thread which deservedly needs more attention.
I saw the Anna Atkins thingie this a.m. but, not being as resourceful as you Bixa, (another way of saying I am lazy...), so thank you for that link and info. And, the x-ray link is very cool Lizzy, thank you.
Aah too late- I have only seen this thread now. I bought a fantastic book on plants of South Africa and decided the illustrations were beyond marvellous but it did not suit my needs so put it back on auction.
Here is a different twist on botanical illustration ~
Mary Delany was born on this day in 1700. She began making paper collages, or ‘mosaicks' as she called them, at the age of 72. The idea came to her while staying with her companion, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, in Buckinghamshire. She had noticed the similarity of colour between a geranium and a piece of red paper that was on her bedside table. Taking up her scissors she imitated the petals. Upon entering the room, the duchess mistook them for real: 'Her approbation was such a sanction to my undertaking... and gave me courage to go on with confidence'. Delany later wrote that her work was intended as an imitation of a ‘hortus siccus’ or collection of dried flowers. In creating a ‘mosaick’, she would cut minute pieces of coloured paper and stick them on a black background to represent each part of a specimen. She created nearly 1,000 collages before failing eyesight caused her to stop in 1782. They filled ten albums which came to the British Museum in 1897. Here are some of these wonderful collages ow.ly/qXvY3002UWf (source: the British Museum's Facebook page. After opening the link, you have to scroll down in order to see the images.)
Just a few of the images. On the original page (see above), you can click on the these images to see them full size ~
I agree, Casimira. Here is some life, albeit a year later ~
From the dark green needles of the hemlock spruce in the east to the aromatic flowers of the coastal California bay, French botanist François-André Michaux and English botanist Thomas Nuttall documented every known North American tree. The North American Sylva was a compendium of three original volumes by Michaux, made in 1810–13, and a three-volume supplement by Nuttall. It was beautifully illustrated in its numerous editions, with work by famed botanical artists Pierre-Joseph Redouté and Pancrace Bessa. ... A new book ... from Abbeville Press is the first to compile over 270 plates from North American Sylva in one volume. ... The Trees of North America is more of an art book than a scientific one, giving over the most pages to colored prints, but it’s still an enlightening index of specimens: each is accompanied by botanical notes from [New York Botanical Garden staff] and comments from Michaux’s observations.source
I'm only including one illustration in this post because the others in the article are folio sized. They are also exquisite, so please click the link.
What gets me, besides her incredible skill of course, is however in the world did it occur to her to do such a thing. I tried looking it up and all I could find is that in that period of history there was quite a fad for decoupage. But her work goes worlds beyond that.