Botanical Illustration or Flower Painting: Sexuality, Violence and Social Discourse
journal contributionposted on 17.05.2017, 11:14 by Judy Dyson
Botanical illustration and flower painting are regularly designated as separate genres, one scientific, the other art historical, distinctions that are challenged here as problematic given that the art forms share and interrelate in ways that have not been sufficiently considered. As a form of scientific representation, botanical illustration assists in plant classification, conservation and exploitation, and has avoided critique due to its protection within the privileged discipline of science. However, botanical illustration has a long genealogy that participated in developing cultural concepts of aesthetics, religion, and society long before Linnaean classificatory systems brought about a proliferation of plant illustration in the eighteenth century. Botanical illustration became a tool recording imperialist endeavours to tame and utilise nature through processes of documentation and collection, and was intimately associated with medical, social, economic and racial practices during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Botanical illustration cannot exist in scientific isolation outside of its historical connections, since even the most basic depiction exists within a broad socio-cultural perspective.