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Botanical Explorers

Botanical artists who traveled with explorers played a large part in documenting plant and animal specimens from newly discovered lands.

a painting of an alligator with a snake in its mouth.

Photo: spiegel.d

This is a painting of a caiman and a South American coral snake by Maria Sibylla Merian. She ventured to South America to illustrate the plants and animals her expedition encountered.

The 18th Century was a period in world history abound with many intrepid explorers. Explorers often took artists with them on their journeys so that they could bring home not only maps but also images of the exotic plants and flowers they discovered.

Sydney Parkinson and William Bartram

Sydney Parkinson was one of these traveling botanical artists. He spent two and a half years with Captain James Cook at sea on the ‘Endeavor’. As chief artist on the expedition he painted many native Australian flowers.

Our own American botanical artist, William Bartram, set off from his home in Philadelphia on many expeditions. He accompanied his father John Bartram who was a famous naturalist. In Georgia, the Bartrams discovered and named the Franklinia tree which honors Ben Franklin. William painted the lovely flowers of the Franklinia tree which resemble camellias to which the tree is related. The Bartrams sent seeds of this and many other newly discovered plants from the New World back to Europe.

Women As Botanical Explorers

One of the few women who traveled abroad on expeditions was Maria Sibylla Merian. She bravely ventured forth to South America at the age of 52 and is credited with being the first person to document the way insects pollinate flowers.

Another of the 18th Century women botanical artists was Barbara Dietzsch (pronounced Deech). She was resident artist in the court of Nuremburg, but she traveled also and produced a large number of exquisite flower paintings using gouache (pronounced gwash) which is an opaque water color technique.

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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