If it's geographically possible, try to visit the Art Gallery of Ballarat before December 2nd. That's when the exhibition Capturing Flora: 300 Years of Australian Botanical Art closes.
If it's not geographically possible to get to Ballarat, or impossible to get there in time, then all is not lost. You can still read the book of the exhibition, a large, lavish, detailed illustrated book, published by the Art Gallery of Ballarat to coincide with the exhibition.
Both book and exhibition describe the history of botanical art in Australia from its beginnings by 18th century European explorers, botanists and settlers, right up till the state of the art today.
Captain Cook's famous voyage of discovery reached the eastern shore of Australia in 1770. It was the naturalist and botanist Joseph Banks, aboard the ship, who first explored Australia's unique and exotic flora and fauna. He employed the Scottish artist Sydney Parkinson to illustrate these plants. Parkinson didn't survive the journey back, but his many drawings and water colour paintings did.
Banksia serrata 1770-1793, engraving
from Captain Cook's Florilegium, A Selection of Engravings from the drawings of plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on Captain Cook's first voyage of the islands of the Pacific
|James SOWERBY, artist, London England, b.1757, d.1822|
James Edward SMITH, author, England, b.1759, d. 1828
A specimen of the botany of New Holland and Zoology of New Holland
1793, printed publication with hand coloured engravings
Botanical art is a union of art and science. The images need to be scientifically accurate to enable study, identification and classification of plants. But you can also see how botanical artists vary in their stylistic interpretations of plants, and the images can also be very appealing aesthetically.
I was interested to learn that even in the photographic and digital age botanical art is seen as relevant both in science and art. Although it has had to contend with prejudice that it is only women doing pretty drawings of flowers. One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was some contemporary artists talking about the aims and philosophy underpinning their work.
Here is Mali Moir's statement: 'Botanical art produces inspired and skilfully hand-rendered original works, an expression of intimacy towards another living subject, where love can be witnessed in the final creation on paper... '
|Mali MOIR, artist, Australia, b.1960|
Grevillea dryandroides subsp. hirsuta
And here is the statement of Andrew Seward: 'All organic form is a representation, a "picture" so to speak, of the invisible forces that shapes them - growth, movement, senescence, decay. The seaweeds I have been drawing show these effects beautifully. Invisible under the water, usually unnoticed on the beach, their development into forms like those I've drawn is very subtle and difficult to observe.
Drawing provides a means by which the process might be comprehended... '
|Andrew SEWARD, artist, Australia, b.1967|
Ecklonia radiata, Marine algae study
So there you have it - a few crumbs to sample from an Australian botanical art feast. In exhibition form if you're local and quick, or else in the form of a large, beautiful, illustrated 288-page book.
For this post I'm joining the Garden Book Reviews meme hosted by Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys. I used to write book reviews all alone for my blog, until I discovered Holley's meme. Now, thanks to Holley's clever idea, these reviews are no longer solitary. The whole thing feels a bit like belonging to a book club.