Botanical Art Today

Botanical art is back in style at last. It has emerged from its Cinderella status in the last century to being admired in the 21st century.

a detailed painting of a yellow flower.

Photo: Sydenham Edwards

Botanical artists not only create aesthetically pleasing artwork but are concerned with the scientific accuracy of their representations of plants and flowers.

Botanical Art Is In Vogue Again

Botanical art is back in style at last, having survived ups and downs and various competing trends. It has emerged from its Cinderella status in the last century to being admired in the 21st century. Good botanical art is not merely a pretty picture of flowers or any sort of representation of flowers in a painting. Botanical art, while being aesthetically pleasing, must also be botanically accurate. The artist must possess keen observational skills with respect to natural specimens, a well honed technique and a fine sense of composition.

Botanical paintings with these prized characteristics are now highly collectible. Some popular artists are Rose Pellicano, Pam Kessler, Linda Funk, Jean Emmons and Diane McElwain. The definitive book on this genre is titled “Botanical Illustration in Watercolor” and was written by Eleanor Wunderlich in 1991. She says the most popular media for flower paintings is transparent water color and the heavier opaque gouache (pronounced gwash).

Some artists paint on vellum instead of paper. Vellum is made from the skin of animals and gives the painting a luminous effect. Vellum is more expensive than paper and needs a special technique.

Documenting The Plight of the Wildflower

In our century, many botanical artists are also feeling an urgency to paint wild flowers that are threatened with extinction both to provide an accurate record of what they look like and also to draw attention to the vulnerability of some species. They also paint wildflowers out of a desire to communicate the need for biodiversity and intact ecosystems.

Material for this and other segments in this series was obtained from a slide show provided by the American Society of Botanical Artists, prepared by Patricia Kernan and Diane Bouchier.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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