A botanical illustrator is a person who paints, sketches or otherwise illustrates botanical subjects such as trees and flowers. The job requires great artistic skill, attention to fine detail, and technical botanical knowledge. Typical illustrations will be in watercolour, in life size, or if not, the scale shown, and show face and reverse of leaves, flowers, bud, seed and root system.
The use of illustrations was frequently seen in the herbals, seed catalogues and popular works of natural history. The illustrations produced during the eighteenth and nineteenth century are regarded as both appealing and scientifically valid. The finer detail of the printing processes, greatly improving at this time, allowed artists such as Franz and
Ferdinand Bauerto depict the minute aspects of the subject. The use of exploded details would further illustrate the description given in the accompanying text. These details allowed a non scientific audience to go some way in identifying the species, the widening interest in natural history and horticulture was an inducement to the production of many Floras and regular publications.
Many books and publication continued to use the illustrators, even after printed matter began to incorporate photography. It would be many years before the colour printing would equal the illustrators plates. The accuracy and craft of the illustrators had developed in tandem with the botanists concerned, the work came to be accepted as important to the botanists and their institutions. The illustrated publication,
Curtis's Botanical Magazine(1787), was to eventually appoint an official artist. The 220 year old magazine, long associated with the Linnaean Societyand Kew Gardens, is now primarily one of finer botanical illustration. A stream of the finest illustrators to appear in print have been featured in the magazine.
The contribution of botanical illustrators continues to be praised and sought, very fine examples continue to be produced. In the 1980s,
Celia Rosserundertook to illustrate every "Banksia" species for the masterwork, " The Banksias". When another species was described after its publication, " Banksia rosserae", it was named to honour her mammoth accomplishment. Other illustrators, such as the profuse illustrator Matilda Smith, have been specifically honoured for this work.
Botanical illustration is sometimes used as a type for attribution of a
botanical nameto a taxon. The ability of botanists to conserve a dried specimens, or restrictions in safe transport, has meant illustrations have been nominated as the type for that name. Many minute plants, which may only be viewed under a microscope, are often identified by an illustration to overcome the difficulties in using slide mounted specimens. The standards for this are by international agreement (Art 37.5 of the Vienna Code, 2006).
Famous botanical illustrators include:
Elizabeth Blackwell (illustrator)
Olivia Marie Braida-Chiusano
Priscilla Susan Bury
Georg Dionysius Ehret
Walter Hood Fitch
Frances W. Horne
Linnaean Society of Londonawards the Jill Smythies Awardfor botanical illustration.
url = http://www.anbg.gov.au/bot-biog/index.html
title = Index
accessdate = 2008-10-02
work = Australian Plant Collectors and Illustrators 1780s-1980s
publisher = Australian National Herbarium
*cite web|url=http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/hort/women.htm|title=Women Illustrators|work=The Art of Botanical Illustration|publisher=University of Delaware Library|accessdate=2008-10-02
*cite web|url=http://huntbot.andrew.cmu.edu/HIBD/Default.shtml#top|title=Home page|work=Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation|publisher=Carnegie Mellon University|accessdate=2008-10-02
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