The Bauer brothers collection

Seadragon drawing

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, weedy sea dragon, plate 38, Zoological Drawings by Ferdinand Bauer

Franz (1758–1840) and Ferdinand (1760–1826) Bauer excelled in learning the principles of botanical illustration according to the Linnaean system of classification. This technique typically depicts the entire plant in flower, but separately represents the bud and fruit, often dissected to show the internal structure.  

Franz and Ferdinand Bauer were born in Feldsberg, Austria, now Valtice in Czech Republic. Their father Lucas Bauer was court painter to the Princes of Liechtenstein but he died two years after Ferdinand's birth, leaving behind a widow and seven infant children.

The brothers' early artistic training was undertaken by the anatomist and botanist Dr Norbert Boccius. He tended to Feldsberg monastery's medicinal garden, where he taught the brothers how to produce accurate drawings of plants. They continued their training in Vienna under the supervision of Nikolaus von Jacquin, who was director of the botanical garden at Vienna University.  

While Franz and Ferdinand had strikingly similar artistic styles, the progression of their careers could not have been more different. Following a visit to England in 1788, Franz was hired by Sir Joseph Banks as the first resident artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, a position he retained for the rest of his life. He was pioneering in his use of microscopes to produce detailed studies and his intricate drawings contributed to the classification of orchid species.

Ferdinand, on the other hand, was recruited by Banks as the natural history artist on the HMS Investigator voyage (1801–1805) during its circumnavigation of Australia. Working in collaboration with the botanist Robert Brown, he brought back to London hundreds of detailed pencil sketches, many of undescribed species, which he used as templates for the finished watercolours now preserved in the Museum.


Composition: Artworks, sketches, scientific illustrations

Focus: Flora, fauna, exploration, Australia


  • Franz Bauer
  • Ferdinand Bauer