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Botanical Artists in History

Botanical art is an amazing genre in the art world. Botanic art deals with scientifically accurate illustrations of plants, usually showcasing several stages of the plant’s life. Sometimes there are cross-section illustrations to show the inner workings of the plant. Botanical artistry can be traced all the way back to the Romans and their philosophers. One of the oldest, if not the first, botanical artist was Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher. Pliny the Elder wrote the book Natural History, a massive collection of research on natural history as they understood it at the time. This book was the authority on all scientific matters up to the Middle Ages. Explore and enjoy these other well-known botanical artists of historical note, and maybe find your next work of art featuring the natural world. 

Leonhart Fuchs

Leonhart is considered to be one of the 3 German fathers of botany. Born in Barovia, Leonhart would excel in school, where he developed his knowledge in languages and medicine. He then subsequently became a physician and botanist. His main goal in life, however, was to re-discover ancient medicine using his language skills to decipher old Greek texts. One of his most important works is “The Great Herbal”, and only 150 of those books are estimated to exist today. The Great Herbal is important as it illustrated nearly 100 undiscovered species of plants, including some new world varieties like chili peppers. 

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Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria was a Swiss woman with a strong calling to art and science. Though she was a botanist and botanical artist, she also laid claim to being a naturalist and entomologist during the early 1700s. Many botanists today believe her to have been one of the greatest botanical artists of all time. Her biggest claim to fame is documenting the process of metamorphosis for the first time. She is also credited with discovering several undiscovered species of plant and animal life, and her moth and butterflies classification guides are still used today for identification as her illustrations are so accurate.

Elizabeth Blackwell

One of the first female botanists to be published, Elizabeth got her start as a botanical artist by selling her own hand-engraved, colored botanical prints to bail her husband out of jail… many times. She eventually came to realize that medical professionals lacked good and accurate references to the medicinal properties of plants. She then created A Curious Herbal, a colored and fully illustrated guide to the medicinal uses of plants. To come up with the illustrations for this book, she collected and drew local plants in her area.

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Georg Ehret

Georg was considered to be the absolute best botanical artist in the late 1750s. His works were so clean and beautiful, almost photographic, that much of his art is now considered priceless and hangs in museums throughout the world. At a young age, he was able to work with Linnaeus during the period in which Linnaeus was developing classification and binomial naming. This led Georg to have access to many newly acquired plant species unseen by Englishmen. Georg also developed a specific art style that is still used in botanical artistry today; it is called the Linnaean style. 

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