I have a serious botanical art book addiction. There's nothing nicer than getting stuck into an hour or more of browsing through what's on offer from vintage booksellers with a good collection of botanical art books.
Well nothing nicer than the book you bought turning up and being so much better than you were expecting! There's something about books produced in the past which yells "quality" and if you've got a "very good" or "as new" version then I'm in heaven.
However what's better still is the fact that botanical art book owners tend to be very nice people - and they pass on extras in their books that they don't tell you about until you get them.
Which is how I come to be the owner of some seriously archival class documents about Mary Grierson (1912-2012) (who I currently have listed on the 20th Century Botanical Artists page on the website) when I purchased a copy of her book An English Florilegium
The image at the top of the page is of the exhibition catalogues for three solo exhibitions - which probably each deserve a blog post in their own right!
They are- from left to right:
Of late I've become seriously appreciative of catalogues from exhibitions of botanical art. They tell you so much about the scope and nature of the art but also details of the artist which often never reaches formal publication in a book. For the serious student of botanical art, I'd very much recommend paying serious attention to exhibition catalogues.
You might also like to think about you and your work are recorded in solo exhibitions - for posterity and future collectors!
About Mary Grierson (1912-2012)
Mary Grierson in brief:
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Note: Spink is Spink & Son Ltd who at the time were located at 5 King Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6QS. They are now located at 69 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 4ET. However, the gallery which sold botanical art closed just after the turn of the millennium.
Think of Botanic Gardens in London - and you think of Kew. However there have also been a number of important botanic and physic gardens in London associated with gardeners, herbalists and horticulturalists, such as John Gerard, Phillip Miller and William Curtis, that have played an important role in relation to the development of botanical art and associated botanical books.
I've been spending the last month or so researching these gardens - and their locations - and references to them on historical maps - and today I'm announcing a new page for my website - Botanic and Physic Gardens of the past in London
Botanic and Physic Gardens of the past in London excludes Kew but does include:
The Gardens of John Gerard
Each section includes a brief history of the garden, a plan of its location where possible, a plan of its layout if available and what's happening at that location today. Plus references to the Botanical Publications and significant related botanical art associated with its originator or that particular garden.
If you're visiting London in the near future you might like to take a look at some of the locations where important gardens related to botanic art were developed in the past.
Today I've created two new pages on my website for in-depth book reviews of two books relevant to those who want to learn more about botany and the botanical illustrator - and highly recommended by me.
Both reviews were written some years ago shortly after the books were published - but the books haven't changed so nor has the value of the book reviews!
However it occurred to me that it would be much more helpful to those wanting to learn about how to draw plants - or develop their skills - if the book reviews were with the rest of the information I've compiled. So today I've moved them from my review blog to this website.
I'll also be moving more in-depth reviews between now and the end of the year.
The two books are as follows (click the links below the image to go to the dedicated page for each book and read the reviews)
Interestingly both books highlight the value of learning through studying the botanical illustrators of the past.
If you'd like to check out some of the best botanical illustrators and artists in history check out my section on Botanical Art History and in particular Past Masters of Botanical Art & Illustration (1500-1900)
Note: The links above go direct to the page which hosts the book review. The book reviews include associate links to Amazon. This site uses the pennies raised via book sales via those links to finance this website - which is not cheap to run.
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The botanical paintings included in The Florilegium: The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: Celebrating 200 Years are by members of The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Inc. which was formed in 2005
This is very special publication.
The standard of the plant portraits is so high and the text so illuminating that this will make a memorable book and exhibition. I do hope that it will also be exhibited in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2018
You can find a list of all the artists and links to their websites in my earlier blog post "The Florilegium and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney". You can also find out more about the plants recorded and the contributing artists in this List of Florilegium paintings and artists
The Society very kindly sent me a copy of the book to review. I was really pleased as I had it on my list of books to order - and this is that review which is a little bit later than I had planned!
The Florilegium Project
Florilegium Society President Beverley Allen provides an informative overview of the development of contemporary florilegium projects from the heritage of florilegia of the past. She discussses how this project was conceived as giving the Society ten years to produce a body of work to produce a record of the historical plants in time for the 200th anniversary celebrations in 2016, In other words this book has been in the planning pipeline for some considerable time!
She also describes well the demands upon the artist in completing a plant portrait.
The plants are painted life-size, unless noted otherwise on the painting, and most are reproduced at about half painted size. Some show the plant in its entirety, some the flower and fruiting bodies, in others, the focus is that most recognisable and showiest of all structures, the flower, further playing out its biological role in attracting attention.
The first thing to emphasise is that the quality of the paintings is extremely high. This book really sets a standard for Florilegium Societies which will be difficult to match.
The botanical art displayed in this book is definitely at the high end of the spectrum; these are works of incredible accuracy and of undeniable beauty that fully respect the plants they portray,
I like the fact that although many of the paintings fulfil what is required of them in terms of scientific accuracy and information about the plant, they also have a contemporary feel about them. It's good to see people not being constrained by conventional and traditional ideas of what botanical art "should look like". After all, the contemporary styles of today's top botanical artists might well be viewed as a more traditional perspective on botanical art in 100 years time as methods, styles and approaches continue to adapt and refine!
I also particularly like that this Society has sought contributions from excellent artists to achieve the standard of paintings included in the Florilegium. This means that a number of artists come from outside Australia and New Zealand. I'm guessing one of the incentives was to make sure enough artworks were completed before 2016 to ensure that there were enough excellent paintings to include in an exhibition and a book.
In terms of the plants included, they are a mix of Australian Natives and plants imported to Australia and grown in the Botanic Garden.
Each plant has a double page spread of a full colour plate with a facing page of authoritative but accessible text providing both a description of the plant and a narrative about its history within the RBG Sydney.
When I first went to Australia (where my sister lives with her family) I was particularly struck by the different plants found "down under". This was reinforced when I paid my own visit to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney. Recently I was reminded of this again when writing about Marianne North who was told by Charles Darwin that she needed to visit Australia to see and paint the native plants of Australia which she would not have seen elsewhere on her travels across many countries!
I was reminded again of the unique nature of some Australian plants and those that feature prominently as native plants while browsing this book. It's more than a portrait of the plants found in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney - it's also a portrait of Australia's native plant life.
At the same time it's a reflection of the scope and development of the collection at the RBGS over 200 years in terms of plants collected in other countries and introduced to the plant collections in the three gardens of RBGS during the 20th century.
In terms of the publication itself, it's printed on paper which lends itself to better quality colour reproduction of the images of the plants. However it's also slightly heavier paper which contributes to my only slight quibble about the book.
This is a HEAVY book. It's available both as a hardback and a paperback - and the version I have is a paperback. My preference when buying big heavy books is to buy a hardback - simply because I find they make me confident when handling them. The paperback version makes me feel I need to be careful in the way I handled it when reviewing the plates and the text. However I have a tilt stand for larger books and it was fine on that.
All in all, this is very definitely a book for any serious student of Florilegia and/or botanical art and/or a fan of the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.
How to get a copy of "The Florilegium"
The book is being sold by: The Garden Shop at the RBGS, Florilegium and Summerfield Books to online purchasers.
These are the technical book details.
The book was published with the generous support of
There's an article about the book in
You can see a brief biography and find a link to the website of some of the artists who contributed to this book on my page about Botanical Artists in Australia and New Zealand
How do you make sure that you get the right botanical art books for Christmas?
I learned a long time ago that there's really only one way to make sure you get the right books as Christmas presents - order them yourself!
So - given we're a "no surprises, only give what gives you joy" sort of present-giving couple, these are some of the botanical art books which my best beloved has got me for Christmas - which arrived yesterday.
The way it works is like this:
Between now and Christmas, I'll be doing some reviews of botanical art books that I've already got which I'd recommend as Christmas presents or as books to spend your Christmas cash/vouchers on in the New Year.
In-depth book reviews of the above will have to wait for the New Year - but please feel free to leave your own comments on this blog if you've already got them!
In the meantime, you can find more botanical art books on my website at:
Brigid Edwards has a new exhibition of her botanical art on vellum at Thomas Gibson Fine Art Gallery 39 St James Street, London Sw1A 1JD - until 16th December 2016.
This post is about the exhibition and her past works on vellum in terms of biography, working practice, exhibitions and a bibliography of where you can see her work published.
Exhibition: Brigid Edwards New Works on Vellum
You can see the 'new paintings' in the exhibition on her website - click each work to see a larger version (see above - http://brigidedwards.co.uk/2016.html ). All were painted in 2015 or 2016.
What I very much like about her work is her ability to select and represent a plant and then shows you aspects of the plant you've never noticed before. In addition, she has a particular talent for making the very simple very beautiful. She conveys both strength and delicacy equally well. It's something to do with the angle she chooses and the way in which she is very selective in what she chooses to paint and what features of a p[ant she chooses to portray. She obviously feels no need to paint 'the all singing and dancing' version! I've seen many of her subjects painted by other botanical artists however I'd venture to suggest that I'd always be able to tell which one was painted by Brigid Edwards!
She's had three previous exhibitions at the Thomas Gibson Gallery - in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2005. It's a gallery which sells work by a very fine roster of fine artists. She has also shown previously at the Smithsonian. the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentatio and at many other locations around the world.
Below is a map showing where the gallery is located in London. The nearest tube station is Green Park.
About Brigid Edwards
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
© Katherine Tyrrell 2015-17
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