Register of Original Botanical Art

Database Introduction

© 2002 by Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. All Rights Reserved.

This is an unfinished guide to the location of mostly public collections of original botanical paintings and drawings from any time period done in traditional media such as watercolor, pastel, ink or pencil. The database contains information about scientific illustrations of plants and artworks that accurately depict plants as their main subjects and that may be of taxonomic importance.

Information about still-life, impressionistic and traditional oriental paintings is of secondary importance for this survey. Though it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between these two categories, we have, for example, included some flower paintings by such artists as Martin Johnson Heade and Charles Demuth when the information was provided. Flower paintings by Nolde and Redon, however, seem less pertinent to our register. We hope this register will be valuable to those seeking to know the whereabouts of illustrations by particular artists or of specific plants and the contents of collections in particular cities or museums.

San Francisco artist Gary Bukovnik generously provided funds in 1994 for copying a questionnaire and for postage to each herbarium listed in Patricia K. Holmgren and Noel H. Holmgren’s Plant Specialists Index: Index to Specialists in the Systematics of Plants and Fungi Based on Data from Index Herbariorum (herbaria), edition 8 (Königstein, Koeltz Scientific Books, 1992). The herbaria were asked if they had artworks with botanical themes and if so to describe them as thoroughly as possible, citing especially artists, titles, media, publications (if pertinent) and dates. Several hundred positive responses were received. The information received, varying from only a simple "yes" to detailed lists accompanied by exhibition catalogues, was the basis for this database. Particularly frustrating in our responses were the many vague terms to describe original artworks (including painting, watercolor drawing, plate, print, picture) and the inevitable inconsistencies in describing the subjects and media. Except for the most blatant typos, I have attempted to retain the original terminology from the sources quoted.

An arduous further phase of the project would be contacting the many art museums as well as scientific institutions and gardens without herbaria. We have gleaned information on non-herbaria collections from a plethora of sources — articles, books, correspondence, hand-written lists and index cards from libraries. And we have contacted a few of these American art museums. But postage alone to all these institutions would be prohibitive, even if no follow-up communication was anticipated.

Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt's goal was to own an original painting by each of the artists represented in her important library of illustrated books. This was an impossible task, of course. This guide originally seemed an impossible task until Mr. Bukovnik offered his gift. I also wish to acknowledge the assistance of each curator who responded to the survey, and particularly to those who went to extraordinary pains to provide detailed information. Gavin D. R. Bridson provided advice and permission to lift freely from his (and Valerie C. Phillips and Anthony P. Harvey’s) Natural History Manuscript Resources in the British Isles (1980) and Bridson and White’s Plant, Animal and Anatomical Illustration in Art & Science: A Bibliographical Guide from the 16th Century to the Present Day (1990). Robert W. Kiger, Director of the Hunt Institute, provided encouragement of this project. Frank A. Reynolds, Graphics Manager, and especially Kristina Lamothe, Research Assistant, advised and assisted in designing the computer database into which data was entered.

Register of Original Botanical Art

Search By Artist
Search By Atwork
Search By Institution

Also see:

Catalogue of the Botanical Art Collection at the Hunt Institute

Smithsonian Institution’s Catalog of Botanical Illustrations at http://www.nmnh.si.edu/botart/




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