Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Book Review: The Art of Plant Evolution


Title: The Art of Plant Evolution

Synopsis: This publication is based on an 'art meets science' exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2009/10 to celebrate Kew’s 250th anniversary and Darwin’s bicentenary. The exhibition (and the book) provides an overview of plant relationships based on contemporary scientific discoveries and DNA test. Both contain 136 botanical paintings from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, by 84 artists, cover 44 orders of plants in 118 families, and a total of 134 species, providing a sweeping overview of the evolution of plants on earth. The paintings display a sampling of the plant world from fungi to daisies, including algae, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants arranged in the most up to date evolutionary sequence, determined by recent DNA analysis. The text accompany each image of paintings in the exhibition comments on the artist's background, and the artist’s observations in the context of modern plant classification.

Summary review: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED This book emphasises the scientific aspects of botanical art and provides all botanical art lovers with a comprehensive education in the botany of plant groups and families alongside numerous excellent examples of botanical art.

Highlights
  • complete taxonomic classification of all plants - and paintings
  • painting names are matched to correct botanical names and plant families
  • explanation of the DNA sequencing process as applied to plants
  • short synopsis of the major evolutionary groups
  • book organised according to each main plant group
  • illustrations of examples of 134 species from 116 plant families divided among 44 plant orders
  • work by 84 international artists
  • detailed scientific commentary on individual plants representative of different plants groups and families
  • excellent bibliography and glossary
  • this is a substantial book with excellent production standards - the colour and detailing of the images is first rate
Think Again?
  • I'm not sure there's an easy way into botany and the classification of plants. The scientific explanations certainly require focused attention. (However the book is beautiful to look at even if you skip the science bits initially)
  • I wish it had a list of artists as an appendix
Who should buy this?:
  • emerging and experienced botanical artists
  • people who learned their botany some time ago and need to update on recent discoveries
Who should not buy this?
  • anybody not interested in the science of plant evolution and//or botanical art
Author / (Publisher) W. John Cress and Shirley Sherwood / Kew Publishing
Technical data: Publication Date: UK 22nd August 2009; USA - February 15, 2010Hardcover (with dust jacket) - 320 pages; ISBN 9781842464212

There's not a lot to add. It's an excellent book and one which deserves to be on the reference shelves of every serious botanical artist. I'd definitely recommend going to see the exhibition too if you can get to London. See my Exhibition review: The Art of Plant Evolution on Making A Mark.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the artists include a number - from Japan and Brazil - who were not previously known to me.

Author information:

Dr W. John Kress is Curator and Research Scientist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC . He studied at both Harvard and Duke Universities and his research interests include the systematic biology of Heliconia and other Zingiberales

Dr Shirley Sherwood has been collecting contemporary botanical drawings from around the world since 1990. Her comprehensive collection includes work by artists living in over thirty different countries and documents the emergence of a new wave of botanical painters and the renaissance of their art form and is arguably the most important private collection of twentieth century botanical art in the world.

1 comment:

Carole Baker said...

I'm going to have to splurge again.

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