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An introduction to Kew's Illustrations Team

Julia Buckley
17 May 2011
Find out about the work of Kew's Illustrations Team and the world class resource they care for on a daily basis.

The Illustrations Team care for Kew’s collection of over 200,000 botanical illustrations. This world class resource includes the work of 18th century masters such as Georg Dionysius Ehret, 19th century illustrators, such as the prolific Walter Hood Fitch, and contemporary artists contributing to current publications.

The team also have responsibility for Kew’s historical images, its portrait collection of eminent botanists, and its many art and artefacts – including the ingenious folding chair reputedly used by Sir Joseph Banks aboard the Endeavour, and collection of wax orchids beautifully crafted by the 19th century artist Edith Blackman.


Tulip ‘Baquet Rigaux optimus’, by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770)

Marilyn, Illustrations Curator, manages the section of staff, and is assisted by Lynn, Assistant Curator, Julia and Marie, Illustrations Assistants, and Trishya, Library and Illustrations Assistant. The team is also fortunate to receive help from its volunteers, who play a crucial role in assisting with the many tasks required to maintain the illustrations and identify material, in order to respond to the numerous enquiries generated by this resource.

The section deals with a wide range of queries – from botanists studying an illustration for identification purposes, to authors and artists researching a particular illustrator or plant. Some illustrations are the first cited reference for a named plant, and serve as type illustrations in much the same way as the type specimens in Kew’s Herbarium. We all feel privileged in our work and never know what treasures we will uncover when researching the next enquiry!

Appointments can be made to access the illustrations collection, for those with a genuine research need; members of the public can see examples on exhibition in Kew’s Shirley Sherwood Gallery, which opened in 2008. The gallery provides a fantastic showcase for Kew’s artworks as well as the many beautiful illustrations which form the private collection amassed by Dr. Sherwood.

Kew’s illustrations collection continues to grow with purchases made through its modest acquisitions budget and through bequests and the sponsorship of artworks.

If you have any queries about the illustrations collection please contact the team at 

- Julia -


Further information

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