‘The flower painter fails if a work lacks beauty, the botanical artist fails if it lacks accuracy.'
– Wilfred Blunt and William Stearn
Botanical illustration unites the scientific with the artistic. Since ancient times, text and image have been used to record observations of nature. The Greek physician Dioscorides’ De materia medica (c 50–70 CE) was the first ‘herbal’, or manual of medicinal information relating to plants, and was a key botanical reference for over 1500 years.
With the Renaissance came the first printed herbals, followed over succeeding centuries by the works of the great botanical artists: Ehret, Redouté, Bauer. Even with today’s digital photography, botanical drawing remains the finest means of understanding and representing plant life.
Des Cowley 'Women's work: illustrating the natural wonders of the Colonies', LaTrobe Journal, No 69, Autumn 2002.
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