See the world through the eyes of natural history artists and explorers, who recorded nature both from the British Isles and from all over the world, as Western explorers first saw it.

The images shown here are selected from the Museum’s important collections of natural history art from the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Indian pangolin, Manis crassicaudata, watercolour by Llewellyn Fidlor, 1827
    India collection

    Explore artwork depicting the wonderful diversity of India’s plants and animals from the mid-1700s onwards. Such painstaking observation of the natural world played an important part in the success of one of the world’s first corporations - the British East India Company.

  • First Fleet drawing depicting the colonists' first view of Port Jackson harbour, Australia
    First Fleet collection

    View fascinating drawings of Australia’s people, wildlife and landscape as seen by artists of the First Fleet that arrived in 1788 to establish the first British colony. Look beyond the images at the untold story of the Aboriginal people who already lived there.

  • Watercolour painting of a camellia, Camellia japonica
    John Reeves collection

    Discover the exquisitely beautiful and scientifically important botanical and zoological paintings commissioned by Reeves while in China (1812-1831).

  • The MacGillivray Art Collection
    MacGillivray art collection

    Marvel at William MacGillivray's gallery of over 200 watercolour paintings depicting British birds, fish and mammals (1796-1851).

  • Endeavour botanical illustrations
    Endeavour botanical illustrations

    Botanical drawings from Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour (1768-1771), the first voyage devoted to scientific discovery.

  • Cat, Felis viverrina in the Hardwicke Drawings Collection
    Art themes

    Explore the many themes, including Natural Wonders and Caught in Oils, that represent the different aspects of the art collections.