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Botanical Illustration

Image from Chelsea Physic GardenThe main goal of botanical illustration is not art, but scientific accuracy. It must portray a plant with the precision and level of detail for it to be recognized and distinguished from another species.

The need for exactness differentiates botanical illustration from more general flower painting. Many great artists, from the seventeenth-century Dutch masters to the French Impressionists, such as Monet and Renoir, to modernists like Georgia O'Keeffe, portrayed flowers; but since their goal was aesthetic, accuracy was not always necessary or intended. In the hands of a talented botanical artist, however, the illustration goes beyond its scientific requirements

So why can't this job be done using photography?

Although photography and perhaps particularly microscopic photography, may help inform botanical work, there is certainly still a need for botanical illustration because it can represent clearly what may not easily be seen in a photograph. Outline drawings for example, distinguish elements that cannot easily be made out using reflected light alone. Also, the composition of the image can be manipulated more fully in illustration, and features displayed together which may not easily be shown simultaneously in nature.


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Artist's Virtual Herbarium
The Artist's Herbarium at is a different kind of herbarium. Instead of being comprised of sheets of dried pressed specimens, the Artist's Herbarium is comprised of detailed color photographs of plants representing several different plant families.

Art Plantae - The Home of Practical Botany for Artists was created to assist artists with their understanding of botany. It is also valuable to anyone interested in drawing plants (e.g., gardeners, nature guides, illustrators, biology students, informal science educators, and K-12 science teachers).

Rare Jordanian Plant Prints
Bruce Pearson has produced this fine art limited edition woodcut while visiting the new Botanic Garden in Jordan. It features Black Iris (Iris petrana) and wild Tulip (Tulipa agenensis). Ten prints have been donated by the artist to raise funds for BGCI - act now to secure yours.
Botanical Art Books
BGCI's aStore presents books grouped by theme, in this case you can browse books on Botanical Art - all in one place. Not only that, but all your purchases generate income for BGCI, so we can continue to support vital plant conservation efforts in the world's botanic gardens.