New Images of Nature gallery opens at Museum

21 January 2011

Explore how artists and scientists see the natural world in Images of Nature, the new free gallery from the Natural History Museum, opening today.

17th century oil painting of the dodo by Roelandt Savery

17th century oil painting of the dodo by Roelandt Savery

For the first time, images from the world’s largest collection of natural history artwork on paper, housed at the Museum, go on display in a permanent gallery.

On show are some of the best artworks from the collection of more than 500,000 pieces, along with modern images created by scientists, imaging specialists, photographers and micro-CT scanning specialists.

There are scientific images such as stained-glass-like meteorite slices and a 3D scan of a shark head, and a 17th century oil painting of a dodo by Flemish painter Roelandt Savery, which gave us the familiar plump bird view.

Lion-haired macaque from the John Reeves collection on display in Images of Nature

Lion-haired macaque from the John Reeves collection on display in Images of Nature

Judith Magee, curator at the Natural History Museum says, ‘From the earliest drawings to the latest digital photography, nature has inspired many artists, and natural history images are valuable for both artistic and scientific study, as many of the works in the gallery demonstrate.’

Peronel Craddock, Interpretation Developer for the gallery says, ‘Pictures capture nature in ways other methods cannot. Visual records were, and still are, an important element of scientific study and scientists often rely on a drawing or photograph to help them describe and classify specimens.

Eminent artists

Prints, watercolours and paintings from other eminent natural history artists such as the prolific bird illustrator, John Gerrard Keulemans and accomplished botanical artist, Georg Ehret, feature in the collection.

Chinese watercolours
Images of Nature gallery panels

Images of Nature gallery panels

There is also a temporary exhibition of Chinese botanical and zoological watercolours, commissioned by the 19th-century East India Company tea inspector John Reeves. These temporary exhibitions will change every three 3 months as the artwork is too delicate for permanent display.

Works by a Shanghai-based contemporary artist, inspired by the collections from China, also feature in the gallery.

Interactive kiosks

Visitors can also use interactive kiosks in the gallery where they can zoom in and examine more artworks in detail, or find out more about the John Reeves collection, the story of scientific illustration, and the dodo's changing image.

Images of Nature is in Dinosaur Way in the Blue Zone

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Art, nature and imaging

Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, watercolour from the India collection

Discover how natural history art and imaging techniques have developed since the 17th century and explore selected artworks from the Museum’s world-class art collections.

Art, nature and imaging

New Chinese art book 

Chinese Art and the Reeves Collection book image

Enjoy beautiful natural history art from the Museum’s own collections, in our new book Chinese art and the Reeves Collection.

The book brings together some of the finest examples of Chinese natural history drawings, many of which have never before been published. It accompanies a temporary display in the Museum’s unique new Images of Nature gallery

See more new and forthcoming books

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