The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first gallery in the world dedicated solely to botanical art.
The interior of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
Did you know?
- Kew still commissions around 100 botanical illustrations a year.
- The earliest surviving illustrated botanical work is the Codex vindobonensis. It is a copy of Dioscorides’ de Materia Medica, and was made in the year 512 for Juliana Anicia, daughter of the former Western Roman Emperor Olybrius.
- As part of the Wallich and Indian Natural History project, the plant drawings, specimens and correspondence which make up the Nathaniel Wallich Collection are being reunited. You can now see these online here.
- Addison Publishers have published a set of fine art prints to commemorate each decade of Her Majesty's reign, specially selected from the works of seven pioneering master botanical painters from the collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
About the collection
The emergence of botanical illustration as a genre of art dates back to the 15th century, when herbals (books describing the culinary and medicinal uses of plants) were printed containing illustrations of flowers. As printing techniques advanced, and new plants came to Europe from Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century, wealthy individuals and botanic gardens commissioned artists to record the beauty of these exotics in ‘Florilegia’. At Kew, Sir Joseph Banks employed Franz Bauer as “Botanick Painter to His Majesty” and also sent artists on plant-collecting expeditions.
As well as being beautiful, botanical illustrations became important scientific records through which plants were named and classified. Franz Bauer had a particularly accurate eye for detail. An image of a pollen grain he drew in the 18th century, using only a basic microscope, was later proved by a scanning electron microscope to be entirely accurate. Other important botanical illustrators include Walter Hood Fitch, who completed 10,000 drawings while working as Kew’s principal artist between 1837 and 1877.
Kew’s archives contain 200,000 works of botanical art. These include pieces by 18th and 19th century masters, including Ehret, Redouté and the Bauer brothers, along with works by contemporary artists. In 2008 Kew opened a new gallery to display these works alongside pieces from the collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood. Dr Sherwood’s collection includes illustrations by contemporary artists living in 30 countries. Connected to the Marianne North Gallery, and with a carefully controlled interior climate, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first public gallery in the world dedicated to showing botanical art.
- Find out more about Kew's Illustration collection and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art from the Spring 2008 issue of Kew Magazine.
Talks and Courses
Art on Demand
Botanical art prints from Kew's collection are available to buy through Kew's online print shop.
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We invite photographers to capture the sights at Kew and Wakehurst. These images are a selection of images submitted by photographers from around the world. We hope you enjoy them. You can see more on Flickr.