It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Visible Empire by Daniela Bleichmar - another treasure to read -

(Heliconia stiletioides, New Granada Expedition, 1783-1816, unsigned - Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid - photo: MHjK)

Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions & Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment by Daniela Bleichmar (The University of Chicago Press) focuses on travel, art and science of the 18th century Spanish Empire. In the 17th and 18th century European botany was an important science because it meant exploration of new lands and gaining information of unknown, new and exotic plants and environments for the host country. The relationship was different within the Spanish Empire: Spanish Empire was documenting their own colonies which had been in their possession already for 250 years.
The Spanish crown organized and financed  several expeditions to Central America, South America, The Philippines and Europe resulting to ca 13000 images, of which the majority is preserved in the collections of  the Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid. The book approaches the visual history in five ways: (1) detailed visual analysis; (2) process of making and using the visual material; (3) connection between the images and other natural history specimens and texts; (4) examination of various types of work that images performed; and finally (5) study of the images both within and outside the usual understanding of the histories of art and visual culture.

This is a lavishly illustrated volume of 286 pages about the little known history of the scientific expeditions in the early Spanish Empire. It is extremely interesting reading and an absolute must for everybody who is interested in Botanical illustration and its early history. 
Watch an excellent video about the book by clicking here

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