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
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