Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Our New Exhibition is Now Open

Me next to James Sowerby's (b.1757) Tulipa species.

Although I pretty much love all the paintings on show from the Kew Collection, there are a few paintings which inevitably stand out. Most of the ones that I like were painted by the East India Company School. There is something incredibly quirky about these paintings, and they seem to serve their purpose much more - they describe a plant and to act as an identification aid. Most (but not all) contemporary botanical art seems to have walked away from the eccentric side of things and is far more interested in showing a plant precisely and with beauty, and although some of these paintings are outstanding in their execution, the modern paintings tend to leave me gawping at the skill of the artist, rather than to smile. The old paintings make me smile. There is a pleasing innocence to these images which allows me to feel like I am talking to the artist.

So this painting here is by James Sowerby (1757-1822), one of my heroes. His name popped up many times while I was studying Sir James St. Aubyn at Plymouth Museum. He is responsible for illustrating many natural history collections, including some minerals from Sir John's collection. His colourfully illustrated books made natural history interesting to everyone in his day, and this Tulip is no exception. It is utterly beautiful in my eyes, and is anomalous in being one of my favourites in this exhibition, and not from a company school.