From petal to pigment

Botanical art is much more than just a snapshot of a given plant

Geranium 'Patricia'The ability to look, closely observe and then to know what it is you are seeing is critical for any botanical artist. However, it is not just the observation of the plant itself that is important, but an appreciation of how then to translate that into an image on the page.

Being able to read and interpret another artists’ work can provide valuable insights and the paintings in the Lindley Library offer inspiration to both the keen amateur and established professional artist.

A wealth of expertise can be found in our art collection which represents nearly 400 years of botanical illustration, with the regular addition of new gold medal standard works from across the world. The work of revered masters can be seen alongside the re-interpretation of traditional approaches by contemporary artists. Whether it is a question of composition, the treatment of life-cycle stages or having the opportunity to see how a number of different artists tackled the same subject, immersing yourself in the work of others can help provide the stimulation to take a painting forwards.

Gael Sellwood at workEach artist works in their own way and photographs can be useful for providing additional source information, as well as for documenting the progress of a painting. However, a piece of botanical art is much more than just a snap shot of a given plant, it is a carefully constructed representation. The artist brings a wealth of knowledge to each new painting, not just in the technical accuracy demanded for capturing a plant, but also in creating an image that can be read and understood. A painting is rarely viewed in isolation and the influence of those artists who have gone before can often be seen in new works. The working sketches and colour experiments provided by some of the RHS gold medal winning artists offer us a glimpse into their creative world and develop a repository for future artists to call on.

More information

Read the full article by Charlotte Brooks

Visit the London Botanical Art Show on 26-27 February 2016 to see outstanding contemporary botanical illustration and demonstrations from award-winning artists.

Appointments to view original art works in the RHS Lindley Library can be made via [email protected].

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