1 June 2021
In Pictures: A Botanical Rainbow
Immerse yourself in nature's kaleidoscope in this vivid collection of botanical art.
Botanical illustrations uniquely blend art and science to illuminate the wonders of plants and fungi.
Centuries before the invention of colour photography, botanical art captured the rich patterns and vivid colours of the natural world. Today, the genre continues to reveal the intricacies of the world’s flora in exquisite detail.
Feast your eyes on some of the striking images on display at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art this summer and enjoy a dazzling spectrum of nature’s colours.
Tulipa ‘de Molen’ by Coral G Guest
Coral G Guest is an English botanical artist and essayist, fascinated by our relationship with the flowering world. Her work has been described as pioneering for the way she has redefined the traditional practice of the observational flower painter.
Describing her own practices, she says: “For much of my life I have gazed into the faces of flowers, observing daylight as it reflects and refracts through petals.”
A Brilliant Life – Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) by Denise Ramsay
Native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey and northern Iran, the oriental poppy is a perennial that blooms bright in shades of red, orange, white or pink, from spring to early summer.
Ramsey’s painting below, A Brilliant Life, won a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gold medal for botanical art in 2014 and forms part of a series capturing the poppy’s growth from bud to aged beauty.
Golden trumpet (Allamanda cathartica) by Annie Farrer
These evergreen shrubs burst with yellow trumpet-shaped flowers in summer and autumn. Native to Brazil, the plants normally climb by aerial roots, thriving in sunny, warm environments.
The artist, Annie Farrer, worked as a freelancer for Kew for many years and was awarded more than six RHS gold medals for her work capturing the overlooked details of the natural world.
Silver tree fern (Cyathea dealbata) by Bryan Poole
Known as the iconic symbol of New Zealand, the silver tree fern is distinct for its fronds – dark green on the surface with a shiny silver lining underneath. In Māori belief, the elegant shape of the fronds stands for strength, stubborn resistance, and enduring power.
Originally from New Zealand, Bryan Poole has worked in Britain as a botanical artist since the 1980s. Dr Christopher Grey-Wilson, former editor of Kew magazine, described Poole as having “the gift to be able to combine traditional methods of illustration and reproduction with a very modern approach to botanical art and design.”
Blue Flame – Mountain puya (Puya alpestris) by Jess Shepherd
The metallic blue flowers of the Puya alpestris are brought to life in vivid colour in this painting by Jess Shepherd. In her own words, she creates “works that bring us closer to the mystical, the irrational and the sublime.”
Her painting captures the surreal magic of the species, part of the bromeliad family and a relative of the pineapple. Despite its spiky leaves, its enticing colours attract pollinators such as hummingbirds – a fitting match for its exuberant display.
Rip City – Dark dahlia by Jean Emmons
The drama of a dahlia in bloom is captured in this kaleidoscopic painting by Jean Emmons, with strong shades of purple softened by hints of pink and green. Inspired by medieval manuscript illumination on vellum, Emmons uses watercolour to suggest light moving through layers of plant tissues.
She recently won Best in Show at the American Society of Botanical Artists awards.
“I enjoy using multiple layers of underpainting in unusual colours,” she says. “The challenge for me is to pull it all back together after I’ve created chaos.”