Art of Botanical Illustration Exhibition – A New Direction


Eucalyptus goniocalyx – juvenile leaf by Kate Nolan courtesy artist

The 13th biennial exhibition Art of Botanical Illustration – A New Direction, featuring some 175 illustrations combining art and science accurately and aesthetically in a unique and personal way, will be on show and for sale at the Domain Gallery in the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Melbourne, October 15 – 30, 2016.

Botanical art has an ability to educate, promote ecological awareness and communicate the importance of plants in the world today.

In competition illustrators from around the world submit scientifically accurate drawings that accompany a published taxonomic description of the plant, highlighting all of the distinctive features of the species.

Botanical illustrators usually create an idealized image from several specimens, with the inclusion of the face and reverse of the features such as leaves. Traditionally details of sections of the plants are provided at a magnified scale and included in the margins around the main image.


Strelitzia nicolai by Paul Rovis courtesy Artist

Artist Joanna Brownell, Convenor of the Botanical Illustrators who are all Friends of the RBG, is one of those challenged and inspired by a new spirit of innovation.

They have been invited to take considered action and to embrace a ‘New Direction by moving outside their traditional terms of reference and offer views that are a ‘little bit different to the norm’.


Polystichum proliferum by Angela Lober, courtesy artist

A highlight of the exhibition will be awarding The Celia Rosser Medal, which was named in honour of the artist whose contribution to the genre of botanical illustration was to record the entire genus of Banksia for Monash University over a twenty five year period to the highest standards

Already many beautiful works from this exhibition have been purchased for inclusion in the Royal Botanical Garden’s State Botanical Collection, which is held in the National Herbarium in Melbourne.


Amanita xanthocephala by Kerriann Indorato courtesy artist

The scientific accuracy of the work submitted for selection is a critical part of the high standard expected when depicting native and ornamental plants in a variety of media.

Works by some 98 local, interstate and overseas artists will be on display, including two artists who have already received major awards this year; Sandra Sanger and Pauline Dewar.


Sue Stuart, Pumpkin, courtesy artist

Sandra Sanger regularly travels nationally and internationally to illustration shows and this year she obtained a Gold Medal at the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Botanical Art Show.

Pauline Dewar received first prize at the prestigious Margaret Flockton Award, which focuses exclusively on contemporary scientific botanical illustration, as distinct from botanical art.

441px-BasiliusBeslerI first discovered the breathtaking art of botanical illustration through the world of antiques, observing glorious drawings by Bishop Basil Besler (1561 – 1629) who was in charge of the gardens of the Prince Bishop of Eichstatt, a town south of Nuremberg in Germany.

A virtuoso and connoisseur of flowers whose cultural formation was very much shaped by a sojourn in Italy, in 1600 the Prince commissioned Besler to prepare an illustrated work ‘portraying the botanical richness of the garden” he had established on the hillside overlooking Eichstaat.

An apothacary and botanist Besler compiled and published his Hortus Eystettensis in 1613, cataloguing all the plants in the garden at Eichstatt.

The illustrations were so glorious and exquisitely rendered that they fuelled my interest in not only gathering knowledge about the evolution of botanical illustration but also purchase one or two to adorn my walls.

In all Besler recorded some 660 species, more than 400 varieties, making a total of over a thousand plants. He became renowned as a ‘prince’ among amazing botanical illustrators in his century, helped to kick start the passion for botanical art that has continued right through to the present day.

Botanical Illustration Brownell

Joanna Brownell, Allium cepa, Cichorium intybus, Allium sativum, Beta vulgaris Red Onions, Radicchio, Garlic, Beetroot watercolour

‘A delicate balance between free expression and a fidelity to nature’ are the hallmarks of a great botanical artist.

These shows are always enormously popular, and here in Melbourne the Art of Botanical Illustration has reached a highpoint of excellence as its artists work with scientists, conservationists, horticulturists and art galleries to produce an outstanding result.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

The Art of Botanical Illustration: A New Direction

Exhibition and Sale
15 – 30 October, 2016

Domain House Gallery,
Dallas Brooks Drive, Melbourne (off Birdwood Avenue, 150 m East of the Shrine of Remembrance)

Open daily 10 am – 4 pm

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