Both art and science are combined in the study and work of botanical artists and illustrators. Although photographs capture an artistic essence of a plant, the extremely fine details of a plant that are required in the study of botany can only be brought to life by a botanical artist. Botanical artists contribute to the scientific study of plants and help to preserve an accurate record of plants on Earth.
History of Botanical Art
Botanical art is not a new concept. Drawings of plants have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and in Roman mosaics, such as those unearthed from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii in 79 A.D. Plant explorers, such as Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820), were accompanied by botanical artists on plant expeditions in order to accurately record the discoveries of the new world.
In addition, many women in the eighteenth and nineteenth century played an active role in the study of botany by recording plant illustrations. However, perhaps some of the more famous artists of the nineteenth century, such as Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) and Pierre Joseph Redoute (1759 – 1840), helped bring attention to botany in art and the work of botanical artists.
The Difference Between Botany in Art and Botanical Art
Although some famous artists were merely artists who drew or painted plants in art, some were true botanical artists. Botanical artists differ from artists who paint plants in simplistic artistic terms because they look at the plant in a scientific way and depict the extremely fine details of plants and plants parts. Botanical art is both art and a study of plant anatomy whereas botany in art concentrates solely on the “artistic” elements. Botanical art illustrations may be life size or drawn to scale.
The Work of a Botanical Artist and Illustrator
A botanical artist, sometimes called a botanical illustrator, works in many types of media including watercolor, pen and ink, acrylics and colored pencils. A botanical artist possesses great artistic skill to be able to depict the characteristics and fine details of a plant and be able to put it on canvas.
Botanical artists must understand the leaves, roots, flowers and seeds of a plant and how they connect and function scientifically in order to be able to accurately depict them artistically. Although there are both guidelines and standards in botanical art, an artist is still able to add their individual expression in the work.
Botanical Artists Today
Botanical artists differ from artists who paint or draw plants for pleasure. Botanical artists are extremely talented; they must be able to combine both science and art in order to carry out their work. However, both botany in art and botanical art may merge and hold similarities. Interest in the work of botanical illustrators is still alive today, despite the many advances in modern technology.