Most people know what inspired them to become interested in botanical art and for some to go on to become botanical artists.
For me it was all the images in my mother's RHS Desk Diary, which used to have an image every other page from classic and historical botanical artwork. I became very familiar with all the masters of botanical art from a young age!
For some it was seeing an exhibition of the actual painting by an artist. For example, Coral Guest was inspired by Rory McEwen (see The Rory McEwen Retrospective and the Legacy Exhibition at Kew)
In 1974 as a first year fine art student, I stopped work early one afternoon, and on a whim left the Chelsea Art School building and took the number 19 Routemaster bus to Piccadilly, where I disembarked for Cork Street. Walking along in a kind of dream, pondering on my work, I happened to glance into the entrance corridor of the Redfern Gallery. There for the first time, glowing in the distance, I saw the Botanical Drawings of Rory McEwen. I stood staring in the half light, mesmerised. I stepped inside and looked at all the work until the gallery closed.
Many others were also inspired by the various exhibitions of botanical art by Rory McEwen - particularly the retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in 2008
Others were inspired by just one painting - or the cover of one book.
On Thursday last week, I was back in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery with Cynthia Rice, on her last day in England, for a long slow review of the exhibition of artwork by British artists in the collection of Shirley Sherwood - complete with loupe!
While there we bumped into Beverly Allen GM, Co-Founder and President of the Florilegium Society associated with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney and Colleen Morris former National Chair of the Australian Garden History Society and the curator of Florilegium: Sydney’s Painted Garden, the recent Florilegium exhibition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the RBG Sydney and co-author of the catalogue The Florilegium, The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Celebrating 200 years. They were visiting the Gallery to discuss arrangements for the exhibition coming to Kew in a year's time - opening March 2018.
I asked whether I could take a photograph, they readily agreed and we pondered on what context to use.
That's when I found out that the image which got Beverley Allen started on botanical art was actually in the exhibition!
This is the painting of the Cape Blue Waterlily by Pandora Sellers on the front cover of Contemporary Botanical Artists which was the first ever book about botanical art by Shirley Sherwood.
So here is the inspiration - with Colleen, Beverley and Cynthia, the official image from Kew and the front cover of the book.
The inspiration in the gallery
The painting by Pandora Sellars
Note: The book is now out of print but you can still get hold of copies on the second-hand book sites. I get most of mine from Amazon.
What inspired YOU to become interested in botanical art?
Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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