The works of art in this installation represent European and American artists’ enduring interest in the visual splendor of flowers. Botanical prints and drawings have roots in ancient and medieval herbal remedy books in which accurate visual description was vital for identifying plants with specific medicinal properties. Over time, however, botanical illustration developed into an artistic specialty that served a range of audiences: scientists, gardeners, painters, and designers of wallpaper, textiles, and other decorative arts.
Starting in the 1840s, with the advent of photography, botanical imagery took on a new dimension. Photographers could record plants and flowers with unprecedented accuracy. As with prints and drawings, however, some artists created botanical photographs that were more decorative than scientific, or that drew inspiration from the natural world to create images redolent of symbolism or spirituality.
Heather Hughes, Kathy and Ted Fernberger Associate Curator of Prints; Molly Kalkstein, Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography; Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center