A new botanical art display 'Painting by numbers' in Oxford is about the paintings of botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826). It also covers research into the techniques he used to create the colours in his paintings for the Flora Graeca from sketches of plants and animals in the Eastern Mediterranean that were annotated with numbers.
The small display of about 12 items opens at the Weston Library (part of the Bodleian Libraries) in Oxford today. It's open daily from Saturday, 29th April 2017 until 9th July and admission is free. (Hours and more details of the venue at the end. [Note: This post was updated and revised after Bodleian advised on 2nd May that this is more of a small temporary display than an exhibition]
It's a display about both the art and science of the Flora Graeca - one of the first Floras to focus on a specific geographical area, in this case Greece. It's widely considered to be one of the finest examples of botanical illustration created from working in the field.
This article Bodleian display showcases scientific research into Bauer's botanical masterpieces comments on the scope of the exhibition
The Flora Graeca is one of the rarest and most expensive botanical books in the world. It took 54 years to produce and only 25 copies were first printed. It has come to be an important account of the plants of the eastern Mediterranean.
The display includes some of the finest botanical and zoological paintings in the world. Its main focus is on:
The display showcases sketches and watercolours based on Bauer and Sibthorp’s journey around Greece and Turkey in 1786-88, where they studied the diversity of plants and wildlife and collected thousands of specimens of flora. Bauer made hundreds of pencil sketches of plants and animals during this trip and then came to Oxford where he spent six years (1788-1794) producing watercolours from these sketches. The numerical notes on Bauer’s botanical sketches indicate that he assigned different colours different numbers, and marked these numbers on his sketches, so when he later turned these into more detailed watercolours, he would know which colour to use where. This enabled him to replicate his sketches of flora and fauna to an amazing degree of accuracy, but researchers are still trying to understand exactly how this worked in practise, and if he used a colour chart that has since been lost, or if he simply had an astonishing colour memory.
Modern scientific analyses reveal the techniques Bauer used to transform his sketches into more than 1,200 of the finest natural history illustrations ever made.
The Flora Graeca and Oxford
Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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