Marvel at the exotic and the microscopic at Blooming Marvellous, an exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum at Tring today, which reveals 400 years of botanical art that helped scientists learn about plants.
Bird of paradise by Franz Bauer, who was the first paid botanical artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
Today, scientists use microscopes to study details invisible to the naked eye. But before this technology was invented, illustrations were an important tool for studying plants.
Botanical artists were recruited on early scientific expeditions such as Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific. They recorded species never before seen in Europe with their drawings, notebooks and paintings.
At the Blooming Marvellous exhibition, visitors see a stunning display of many of these from the important botanical artwork collection the Museum looks after, much of it dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
‘From the earliest drawings of specimens from the voyages of discovery to the latest microscopic scan of a strawberry, visual records were, and still are, an important element of scientific study,’ says interpretation developer Anna Griffiths of the Natural History Museum at Tring.
‘Blooming Marvellous reveals how scientists interpret, understand and explain the natural world through art spanning nearly 400 years.’
Visitors will see stunning works of art up close from some of the most eminent and prolific botanical illustrators.
Sydney Parkinson portrait. He was a member of Captain Cook's voyage to the South Pacific and produced 1,000 plant drawings.
Sydney Parkinson was a member of Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific who produced 1,000 plant drawings. His work was considered so important that Sir Joseph Banks gave orders for the illustrations to be copied and engraved for printing after the Endeavour ship’s return, despite the fact that Parkinson did not survive the return journey.
Georg Dionysius Ehret was inspired by Linnaeus’s new classification system. He developed a new style of illustration that showed the parts of the flower separately and in greater detail making it easier for scientists to study them. His style has been copied by botanical illustrators ever since.
Franz Bauer was the first paid botanical artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, he is still regarded as one of the most technically sophisticated botanical artists of all time.
And Arthur Harry Church developed a new style of illustration influenced by the decorative Art Nouveau movement to reveal the intricate internal structures of flowers.
The Natural History Museum at Tring opened in the late 1800s to house the collections of Lionel Walter, second Baron Rothschild. The Museum was bequeathed to the nation and became part of the Natural History Museum in 1938.
More than 150,000 visitors a year enjoy a glimpse into the fascinating world of the Victorian collector, where they can see a huge variety of wild, weird and wonderful specimens from across the animal kingdom – from armadillos to zebras.