The National Gallery of Art in Washington has a very civilised arrangement where all the books and exhibitions catalogues they have produced in the past, which are now out of print, are reproduced in pdf format for personal/educational consumption online.
Which is how I can recommend all those with an interest in botanical art history take a look at The Flowering of Florence - Botanical Art for the Medici published by the National Gallery of Art, Washington in 2002 for an exhibition of the same name. The idea for the show emerged from Lucia Tongiori Tomasi's research and study at Bunny Mellon's Oak Spring Garden Library.
The book is available in pdf format View PDF (41.29MB)
The Flowering of Florence: Botanical Art for the Medici
Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi and Gretchen A. Hirschauer
Catalog of an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Mar. 3-May 27, 2002
While the wonders of nature have long been an inspiration to artists, the birth of modern science in the 16th century provided a new way of seeing and interpreting the natural world. The Flowering of Florence celebrates the close ties linking the arts and the sciences in Tuscany between the 16th and 18th centuries. Pursuit of the natural sciences—in particular botany and horticulture—and passion for the arts were supported by the Medici grand dukes, following a Florentine tradition. The 68 works in this exhibition include paintings, works on vellum and paper, pietre dure (hardstone mosaics), manuscripts, printed books, and textiles. The catalog contains two essays focusing on botanical art for the Medici and the plants seen in Pietro Perugino’s altarpiece The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene.
The front cover is a detail crop of Chinese Plate with Cherries and Bean Pods, c. 1620, gouache on vellum by Giovanna Garzoni. She started with botanical illustration for the Medici Court but is best known as a still life painter, her paintings of flowers, fruit and vegetables are absolutely impeccable in terms of shape, form, colour and tone - a well as being exceedingly attractive to look at! You can see more of her artwork in:
The practice of botanical illustration constituted valuable training for Giovanna Garzoni, who gradually broadened her repertoire until she felt prepared to attempt her first still-life paintings, a genre that would win her fame at many of the most illustrious courts of Europe— Paris, Rome, Naples, and Turin. These works were almost always executed on vellum, never on canvas, and she became known as the "illustrious miniaturist." The important role played by botanical painting in her art can be seen in a series of four large works in gouache at the Uffizi and datable to the late 16405, three of which are included in this exhibition. In each work the plant is depicted with its roots and flowers, suspended in the center of the page, in accordance with the tradition of Ligozzi. However, the artist enlivens each composition by unobtrusively adding other elements such as small fruits, vegetables, insects, and reptiles; portrayed with minute precision, each casts a faint shadow against the page on which it seems to have been delicately posed.1
The book also includes artworks (in order) by
I found the mosaic murals and table tops based on botanical paintings to be particularly interesting.
Yet another aspect of botanical art in other media!
When visiting Great Dixter last week, there were lots of local orchids in the uncut meadow grass areas of the site. I love garden websites that actually identify plants you can see - as the Great Dixter site does in relation to the Front Meadow area
The grass is cut twice (August and late autumn) and all is removed and composted. Orchids native to the Weald are a particular success; early purples, green winged, twayblade and spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). It is a sanctuary for them, since changed farming and woodland practices have eliminated most of their natural habitats.
H. Isobel Adams and Wild Flowers of the British Isles
Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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