Put simply the differences relate to EMPHASIS:
The greatest flower artists have been those who have found beauty in truth; who have understood plants scientifically, but who have yet seen and described them with the eye and hand of the artist.
"Botanical painting is the painstaking delineation of a particular plant through the medium of paint with a scientific end in view".
Roy Strong, Country Life
Books have played a very significant role in the history of botanical illustration and the painting of plants and flowers. Initially, records of plants were made for a Herbal - this is a book of plants which describes their appearance, their properties and how they may be used for preparing ointments and medicines.
The Age of Discovery (15th - 18th centuries) found artists travelling with explorers and scientists to new lands where they collected evidence of 'new' plants and flowers. Records were made on their travels and on their return of the botanical material that was collected.
For example, Sydney Parkinson and Ferdinand Bauer recorded the appearance of new plants and flowers found on scientific expeditions to explore new lands - such as Australia. Parkinson's work was developed into Banks Florilegium.
Gardens and Florilegium
As people became interested in creating gardens full of plants from a particular locality - or from across the world - they wanted a way to record what they had created - and so was born the unique plant record known as the Florilegium. This contained a collection of illustrations of all the plants and flowers in a garden.
Famous botanical artists such as George Ehret and Pierre Redoute each completed series of paintings relating to specific gardens.
The Golden Age of Botanical Art has been defined by Martyn Rix as peaking in the period c.1750 - c.1850. This was an age characterised by:
What is the difference between botanical art and botanical illustration? In art, the finished painting is the whole object of the artist, and it has no further purpose than to be admired. The Illustration should have a generality that ignores the imperfections of the individual specimens, and so can represent the species or particular form of a species.
Martyn Rix - Introduction to 'The Golden Age of Botanical Art (page 8)
The Golden Age of Botanical Art
by Martyn Rix
This book starts around 4500 years ago and finishes with contemporary botanical art. Inbetween it explores the origins of botanical art and and the range of botanical art produced - from florilegiums to art produced as the result of travels to many different places.
His focus is on the art associated with the period from 1750 to 1850. He also highlights the range of ways in which art and illustration have been produced and a number of the people who are key to its history.
The illustrations in this book are superb and many of them are very large.
Hardcover: 256 pages
Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 2.8 x 28.9 cm
Publisher: Andre Deutsch Ltd
Date published: 13 Sept. 2012
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Martyn Rix has been the Editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine, published by Kew since 2002. He is also a botanist and renowned horticulturalist and worked for many years for the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley. He is also the co-author (with Roger Phillips) of many books about plants. He has also contributed to a number of books about botanical art and illustration as well as writing this book.
One basic difference between a botanical artist and a flower painter is intention: the botanical artist wishes his (or mostly her) work to be useful to the scientist. Each painting here is botanically accurate, often displaying roots, seeds and buds as well as flowers and leaves.
The Spectator - review of "A New Flowering: 1,000 Years of Botanical Art" at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford 16 July 2005
The Video below was made by the Natural History Museum in London (see Permanent Collections UK) to provide a short overview of the development of botanical art over time
Botanical Illustration is a genre of art that endeavours to faithfully depict and represent the form, colour and detail of a plant, identifiable to species level.
As a technical discipline, botanical illustration emphasizes the depiction of accurate information, documenting the anatomical and functional aspect of a plant throughout its life cycle.
The best botanical illustration successfully combines scientific accuracy with visual appeal. It must portray a plant with the precision and level of detail for it to be recognised and distinguished from another species.
RHS Guidance to artists wanting to exhibit at RHS Botanical Art Shows
This is the original approach to portraying plants and flowers.
Illustrations for Herbals were for scientific purposes - allowing people to identify plants with medicinal value.
Over time, a technical method of illustrating the botanical features of a plant developed.
Today the work of botanical illustrators involves creating detailed scientific illustrations which detail:
It's also not uncommon for botanical illustrators to travel to different parts of the world to pursue their occupation by recording plants in situ in their natural environment.
Over time artists began to develop ways of portraying plants and flowers which were aesthetically pleasing as well as botanically correct.
Botanical art or botanical painting might be described as retaining a lot of the features of the technically correct illustrations while placing much more emphasis on aesthetics and artistry where possible.
Professional and more experienced artists addressing the botanical aspects of their art often develop a good knowledge and understanding of botany.
DEFINITION: “BOTANICAL ART” IS
• Which has an aesthetic appeal, exhibiting the elements and principles of artistic design
• With the intent of eliciting an intellectual or emotional response from its audience
Having its prominent subject being the scientifically accurate portrayal of one or more plants or fungi .
• To scale (actual size or scaled enlargement or reduction).
• Free of animals except those which are interdependent with the plant and
subordinated to the plant in their depiction.
• Free of backgrounds except: solid colors, textured substrates or portrayal of the
natural habitat of the plant and subordinated to the plant in its depiction.
Reflecting intimate knowledge and understanding of the subject based on firsthand observation by the artist .
Definition of Botanical Art according to the Strategic Plan of the American Society of Botanical Artists
A lot of today's botanical artists use 'contemporary' to describe their botanical art - meaning 'belonging to the present' - and that's certainly one meaning of the word.
However 'contemporary' also can be used to reference the innovation and originality which is currently making itself known and which makes botanical art today different from that in the past. "Distinctively different in the present" if you like.
One of the interesting aspects of recent judging of RHS Botanical Art Shows is that the Panel of Judges have been looking out for 'contemporary botanical art' and by that they mean the latter definition.
Who's displaying new ways of representing plant life?
The botanical art tradition combines science and art. Botanical art encompasses a range of styles and may take the form of scientific illustration or realistic drawing and painting of botanical subjects. Botanical artists seek to understand the structure of plants and to communicate this knowledge to their audience in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The subject plant must be the prominent feature of the work. All images should be of work executed by hand in traditional botanical media
Botanical art is art whose goal is to depict whole plants or parts of plants in a manner that is both aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate.
Botanical Artists of Canada - definition of Botanical Art
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