Esmée Somers Winkel is a professional scientific illustrator who specialises in botanical illustration. This is the second of my posts about working as a botanical illustrator.
Esmée works as a Scientific illustrator and Botanical artist for the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden and at the Hortus Botanicus, Leiden in the Netherlands.
Her work is world-class and has been recognised in a number of prizes and awards.
This post includes
The Art of Botanical Illustration
Her work is explained in this Naturalis Newsroom interview about The Art of Botanical Illustration. It explains her background and education, what she does and shows you her normal working environment.
About Esmée Winkel
All paintings are watercolours of botanical subjects and birds of Northern Italy by Mary Ann Scott.
Mary Ann is the author of one of the most popular books produced by the SBA for their Distance Learning Diploma Course.
Mary Ann started the Diploma Course course in January 2006 and graduated with a Diploma with Distinction in April 2008 which fast tracked her into membership of the Society of Botanical Artists in the UK.
Note: You can read my review of her book Botanical Sketchbook on this website.
Imagine a meeting between an artist from one of the countries with the greatest sensitivity towards the natural world, and an environment providing some of the the richest biodiversity in Europe.
This is what happened when Mary Ann arrived in Italy, the country with the highest number of plant and animal species in the European Union, and began painting the nature around her.
Well known in the UK as a botanical artist, Mary Ann is the author, with Margaret Stevens, of Botanical Sketchbook. Now, in Italy, she is taking on the numerous plant and animal species that surround her. Certainly, in the UK there are no lack of opportunities, but to be able to observe a Night Heron in detail, it is to Italy, and especially to the rice fields around Novara that one must come. And in the same way, if one wants to see a Scops Owl, the smallest of the European owls, it is the Mediterranean area which provides the most opportunities. For the exhibition, “Living Art, nelgiardino di Mary Ann” watercolours have been painted in which observable plants and animals have been described in a very precise and naturalistic way without, however, creating cold, impersonal images that are perhaps more suited to a textbook for the systematic identification of species. Here, on the other hand, every species retains its personality. At times, the subjects are isolated on a white background to emphasise form and colour; at other times a simple setting is provided, taking into account the preferred habitat of each species.
Although some of the watercolours may be seen as “still lives”, life’s movement is more than hinted at.
The nest, discovered on the ground, is described in detail with the elements which compose it; moss, pieces of bark, feathers, down, tell or suggest a story about a pair of small birds which, instinctively or perhaps from experience, have built a structure necessary for their reproduction. Then, who knows what may have happened? Perhaps the young birds had already flown away or perhaps the nest was torn from the branch by a strong gust of wind. We don’t know the rest of the story and therefore we must imagine it. Whatever our reconstruction of events, the fact remains that as an object this nest is beautiful.
We can make similar considerations for all the other subjects depicted in the exhibition. The watercolours give us suggestions without completing the story, leaving it up to us to contextualise according to our personal sensitivities.
All the works, however, emphasise the great beauty of nature. We know that biodiversity is in danger in most of the world. Many of us are using rational
arguments to try and convince those in power to intervene effectively. We know, however, that rational debate frequently fails. Works, such as those presented in the exhibition, might strike other chords; touch, enchant, even trigger irrational mechanisms of fascination in the mind . If such were the case, art would give no less a contribution to the battle for conservation than the most meticulous scientific research. And I write this as a researcher. It may not be impossible that in Italy, thanks to the work of artists like Mary Ann Scott, awareness may grow of the immeasurable
value of our natural heritage.
“The work of historian Colleen Morris is world class. Painted Garden was a complete triumph in terms of the contemporary botanical artworks it collected and then donated to our permanent collection. The other exciting aspect is that we are now working to put on a significant exhibition of a similar nature at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in 2018.”
Director, Science and Conservation Dr. Brett Summerell
Botanical Art in the UK provides:
Botanical Art Collections in the UK provides links to the permanent collections of original botanical art by the past and more contemporary masters in:
Botanical Art Exhibitions at Major Art Galleries and Museums in the UK has links to current and upcoming exhibitions at:
There is also an ARCHIVE web page for The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew: Exhibition Archive (2008-2016) . This is the ONLY online archive in the world.
Besides highlighting the exhibitions it also highlights the books about the exhibitions which are still available.
RHS Botanical Art Shows provides:
Botanical Art Exhibitions in England and Wales provides links to information about exhibitions by:
The website includes an ARCHIVE of Past Botanical Art Exhibitions in the UK. This is a listing for the more significant botanical art exhibitions in the UK in recent years. From which you can see which places, organisations, galleries and artists have been the most active.
It also includes links to relevant exhibition guides which are still available.
Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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