John Reeves collection

The John Reeves collection is one of the most important in the Museum Library. It contains more than 2,000 scientifically important and exquisitely beautiful botanical and zoological paintings commissioned and collected by Reeves while he was working in China from 1812-1831.

Here you can find out about John Reeves, his collection of artwork and its importance to the science of natural history, and examine a selection of the very best images from the collection.

  • Watercolour of Canton by Henry Fletcher Hance
    Reeves in China

    Judith Magee, Museum curator of rare books, manuscripts and artwork, tells us about John Reeves and his time in China and introduces his important and famous collection.

  • Mangrove fan palm watercolour from the John Reeves collection
    Nature in demand

    Sandy Knapp, a scientist in the Museum’s Botany Department looks at the importance of the John Reeves collection in documenting the natural world.

  • Watercolour of the red lionfish, Pterois volitans, from the John Reeves collection
    Illustrating and classifying

    James Maclaine, a fish curator at the Museum, examines the importance of Reeves’ watercolours to the description and classification of fish.

  • Artist in residence photographing a painting from the John Reeves collection
    A modern response to the John Reeves collection

    The Museum’s first international artist-in-residence for the Images of Nature gallery, a contemporary artist from Shanghai in China, talks about the illustrations and images in the John Reeves collection.

  • Watercolour of the lion-haired macaque, from the John Reeves collection
    Reeves watercolours

    Explore a selection of Reeves watercolours that show the diversity of species and the accuracy and beauty of the work of Chinese artists in the 1800s.  

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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