Exotica: Plant Portraits from Around the World

From a desire by 17th century scientists to discover and document the flora and fauna of new and known worlds comes this fascinating and elegant record of botanical life, Exotica: Plant Portraits from Around the World.

Exotica includes original prints from the Golden Age of botanical art, the tremendously rich period between 1600 and 1850. The arrival of the printing press in the fifteenth century provided a means to multiply and disseminate observations of nature. The exhibition features the most notable early figures in botanical illustration, many of whom were explorers and scientists as well as artists: John James Audubon, Basilius Besler, Mark Catesby, Walter Hood Fitch, Pierre Redouté, Hendrik Van Rheede, Garrit Van Spaendonck, and Johann Weinmann. Patrons, engravers, printers, colorists, and bookbinders were also integral to the complex and costly process of producing a botanical folio. The 61 hand-colored etchings, engravings, and lithographs arc on loan from the Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, West Virginia.

The Hearst Art Gallery's exhibition is supplemented by a loan from Filoli Center of rare prints, Bank's Florilegium, a folio of botanical prints. Only 100 Florilegium exist, each one containing 743 copper plate etchings from watercolors painted by artist and botanist Sydney Parkinson while traveling with Captain James Cook's first voyage to Tahiti, Australia, and New Zealand (1768?1771).* Fellow botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks underwrote much of their expedition.

Parkinson died on the trip and the copper plates etched from his watercolors remained unpublished in the British Museum of Natural History for 200 years. Filoli Center acquired the Florilegium, the most famous of its kind, in 1983.

The Hearst Art Gallery also presents an exhibition of illustrations on paper and vellum by Catherine Watters and other major contemporary botanical illustrators. On view with the contemporary works is a selection of tools used by modern botanical illustrators. Even in this era of precise, computer? generated images, technology has yet to rival the hand and eve of the artist. Please call the Gallery for additional information about group tours and special events including workshops on botanical illustration for children and adults.An opening weekend reception is scheduled for Sunday, January 12, from 2 until 4 P.M.

* One of the members of Cook's voyage, also a Royal Society fellow, described their preparations in a letter to Carl Linnaeus, "No people ever went to sea better fitted for the purpose of Natural History, nor more elegantly outfitted. We have all sorts of machines for catching and preserving insects, all kinds of nets for coral fishing, and a curious contrivance of a telescope, by which, put in the water, you can see the bottom to a great depth."

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Contact: Heidi Donner (925) 631-4069 or hdonner@stmarys-ca.edu