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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Reichenbach - The Orchid King

 Fraction of the herbarium collections at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Wien

One of the absolute highlights of our 2016 Arts and Archives tour was the visit to the Herbarium of the Natural History Museum in Vienna which was established in 1807. Its current holdings are approximately 5.5 million plant specimens. The herbarium is especially rich in type specimens (around 200,000). Unfortunately one sixth of the collection was destroyed during the Second World War, however the herbarium is today ranked among the top five botanical collections in the world.  We focused especially on the Reichenbach orchid collection which includes over 70,000 orchid documentations and was willed to the Natural History Museum by the German Botanist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach in 1889. We got an impressive presentation of the vast collection by Armin who is part of Prof. Vitek's team at the herbarium. 
Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach was born in 1823 in Leipzig and died in 1889 in Hamburg. Even though orchids were his special interest from the age of 18 years, he also helped his father to describe and illustrate the plants of Central Europe (Icones Flora Germanica et Helvetica, 1850) in which Heinrich Gustav was responsible for over 1500 drawings. Xenia Orchidacea published in 1851 included about 900 drawings by H.G. Reichenbach. Reichenbach was the leading orchid expert of his time; he studied and classified a great number of orchids which were shipped to him especially from South America and Asia. His devotion to orchids was described as a manic obsession (only orchids can do this to you).
For more pictures from our visit, please click here.
Reichenbach's drawings and notes to the type specimen of Cypripedium superbiens = Paphiopedilum 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2016 Art and Archives: Mucha and the Prague Botanical Garden including the St. Claire Vineyard

We enjoyed a guided tour at the Mucha Museum housed in the Baroque Kaunicky Palace. AlphonseMucha (1860-1939) was one of the most celebrated artists of the Art Nouveau period. 
We got an extensive overview of the artistic work of Mucha with special attention to his time in Paris (1887-1904), internationally the most celebrated period of his work. We saw the original paintings for the set of posters from this period, including the most important made for Sarah Bernhardt. A set of his characteristic decorative panels and a number of examples from Documents Décoratifs (1902) give an idea of Mucha´s conception of Art Nouveau. We also saw his Parisian sketchbooks, never exhibited before. We also saw a large selection of the photos of Mucha’s family and models for the posters. Photography was not allowed. 
After that we stopped by the Municipal building which is completely decorated by A. Mucha. You can see pictures of that here.
The afternoon was spent at the Prague Botanical Garden. We got an exceptional tour arranged by the horticulture and education department 

Finally before leaving we had some refreshments at the Gardens' vineyard. The vineyard was founded most probably during the reign of King Vaclav II (1278–1305). and has a beautiful view of the Moldau river and Prague. The vineyard produces some 40 different types of table grapes and as many types of vine grapes.

We were able to taste three different white vines, one rose and one red vine after the tasty cold cuts and bread.
For more pictures, please click here.

2016 Arts and Archives: Albertina

 A newly discovered Jacopo Ligozzi painting: Two fava bean plants and a bird, circa 1600; tempera on velum

Our last full day in Vienna was divided between Albertina and the Natural History Museum. I will be doing two separate postings about these locations.
Albertina houses one of the most important and extensive graphic art collections worldwide including around 50,000 drawings and watercolors in addition to some 900,000 graphic art works from the late Gothic era to the present. Albertina does not collect digital art, however most of their collections are digitized. 
We were privileged to spend several hours in the study hall with the chief curator.  He had prepared us a selection of botany-related works from early 15th century to the modern time and generously discussed the material with us and answered all our questions. We also saw two newly discovered Jacopo Ligozzi paintings from around 1600.

Selection of the material we could study can be seen by clicking here

Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Melk Abbey

The north side of Melk Abbey seen from the town of Melk

The Benedictine Melk Abbey is located just west of Vienna and was our destination for Sunday. Melk has always been an important cultural and spiritual center for Austria and as early as 976 the castle of Melk became the residence for the Markgrave for the present day Lower Austria.  In 1089 the castle was given to the Benedictine monks and since the 12th century a school has been connected to the monastery. The school is still active non-boarding school for all religions. The Abbey is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Abbey houses a museum with several beautiful installations. The Abbey Library is an active library and houses around 100,000 volumes (theology, philosophy, medicine and law).
The monastery church from the beginning of the 18th century is an excellent representative for the baroque style, hard to describe in words.
 The Baroque monastery church
The monastery also houses a garden which is opened for the season in May.
On our return trip to Vienna we took the boat and were able to enjoy the vineyards and castles along the Danube river.
For more pictures from our day, please click here

Saturday, April 23, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Schönbrunn and Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Today we visited the imperial palace Schönbrunn, enjoyed an excellent tour through 40 different rooms and learned about the sometimes very confusing Austrian history.
In the afternoon we had a 'museum marathon' at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and enjoyed primarily the Picture Gallery with Dutch, Flemish and German painting. A few more photos can be seen by clicking here.  

Johannes Vermeer: The art of Painting (Die Mahlkunst) 1666-1668

Friday, April 22, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Belvedere and Josephine with Sunshine

 The Lower Palace of Belvedere 

After the magnificent breakfast at our hotel we walked to the Belvedere palaces, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s summer and winter residence, which are considered to be one of the world’s finest Baroque landmarks. In addition to the other permanent collections the galleries house the biggest collection of Gustav Klimt (The Kiss was purchased in 1908).(no photos from teh collections)
In the afternoon we had a very informative tour of Josephinum, which is an important part of the Medical University of Vienna’s cultural heritage. The collections have evolved to reflect the institution’s almost 650-year history and their depth and variety makes them a treasure unique in the world.
At the heart of the Josephinum’s collections are the original stocks, acquired by Joseph II when the institution was founded, especially the world-famous wax anatomical models. Ever since the Josephinum was founded in 1785, the collection of wax models has been accessible to a wider audience, even if it was primarily commissioned for teaching purposes. Originally the collections included around 1200 vax figures, at the moment the collection includes 1000 items. (- no photos from the collections)
For more images from our day, please click here

A wax model  showing an eye disease, c. 1823 (Johan Nepomuk Hofmayr)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Last Morning in Prague and the Transfer to Vienna, Austria

On the last morning we visited and had a tour of the Klementinum, he Klementinum complex was founded by Jesuits after they came to Bohemia in 1556. Part of the building had been prior to that a Dominican Monastery. The reconstruction and expansion lasted over 170 years. This complex is over 2 hectares (4.9 acres) and one of the largest building complexes in Europe.We heard about the library (no photos), astronomic traditions, saw the Vysehrad Codex (faximile copy, the original is shown only once/year, the last day of February). We also climbed to the 68 meters astronomic tower and saw the Mirror chapel. The Mirror Chapel was built in 1725. The impressive installations of Baroque mirrors on the ceiling make the chapel unparalleled worldwide.
After that and a lunch we were ready to take the train to Vienna where we arrived in late afternoon after the 4-hour train trip through beautiful landscapes.
For a few more pictures, please click here
The Mirror Chapel at Klementinum

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Prague's two palace libraries

The German edition of Marcus Catesby's Beschreibung von Carolina, Florida und den Bahamischen Inseln (1755) - palace library of the Counts Kinsky

Today's destinations were the two last palace libraries in Prague, palace library of the Counts Kinsky and Nostitz majorat Library. Both of them are part of the National Museum Library under the Ministry of Culture. These Libraries include a collection of manuscripts, which currently includes more than 6,000 volumes, a collection of incunabula (printed books, not handwritten before the year 1501), an exclusive collection of early printed books.
More pictures from today, please click here
Nostitz Majorat Library

Monday, April 18, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Strahovsky Monastic Library and Prague Castle

One of the Strahovsky Cloister Library's many library halls. The Cloister was originally founded in 1143. Today its Library holdings are around 0.5 million volumes focusing in addition to theology also in sciences. We had an excellent presentation of the architectural history and details of the library and viewed a number of early botanical works. During the over two hour special private tour we saw tho of the many library halls.    
A page from the first multicolored copper engraving from Phytanthoza iconographia (1742) by Johan Wilhelm Weinmann. Phytanthoza iconographia is highly regarded for the quality of its color plates, and the accuracy of its images compared with previous herbals. Weinmann was respected for his writings on medicinal plants and herbs, and Phytanthoza iconographia is recognized as the first important botanical work to use color engraved prints. Georg Dionysos Ehret also was employed by J.W. Weinemann to illustrate some plants for this herbal.
In the afternoon we toured the Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad), The Old Royal Palace, Basilika of the St. George and St. Vitus Cathedral. Some of us then also visited the  Lubkowicz Palace.

Example of the rare series of birds from circa 1800 at the Lubkowicz  Palace within the Prague Castle complex. The outlines of the bird are drawn and partly colored in watercolor and then finished with real feathers. These unique birds were on public display for the first time.
For more pictures, please click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Pilsen (Plzen) -

Pilsen was first mentioned in 975 and it became a town in 1295 under King Wenceslaus II' s rule, Emperor Rudolf II made Pilsen his seat from 1599–1600. Czech's first printing press was placed here and the first printed book in the country was published in the end of the 15th century. 
Pilsen is also famous for its beer and its very old brewery. 
We had a tour of the historic underground of the city as well as the brewery museum. We also visited the Great Synagogue of Pilsen from the late 19th century.
To see more pictures from our Sunday outing, please click here

Replica of the print press from the late 15th century

Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Transfer to Prague, Czech Republic

Today we came to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Even though it was raining w..e could see the beauty of this old city. A few more pictures can be viewed by clicking here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Kew Gardens, SBA and the Queens Galleries

Dr. Shirley Sherwood and Christabel King 
This was the third day and it was wet! We spent the morning at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery and gt an exceptional tour by Dr. Sherwood. Luckily Christabel was also able to join us and give her input to the tour. At the moment the Gallery is focusing on Margaret Mee and her legacy, and also the numerous Margaret Mee scholars who Christabel King has tutored in Kew through the years. The exhibit was exquisite (no photos).
In the afternoon we visited the Society of Botanical Artists' annual exhibit and later went to the Queens Gallery to see the Maria Sibylla Merian exhibit about her butterflies. The exhibition tells Marian's story through 50 works from the Royal Collection.
If you click here you can see few more photos.
  A Branch of Nibble Fruit with Leaf Mantis and Bean leaf Skeletoniser, watercolor on vellum. Maria Sibylla Merian, 1702-03

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Second Day of Arts and Archives: Oxford

Visiting Oxford during one day only is a challenge. We started from the Western Art Print Room at Ashmolean Museum and got an excellent special viewing of selected Michelangelo (biggest collection outside Italy), Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Duerer works mainly but also plates by some unknown botanical artists. In the Conservation department we were familiarized with different techniques from X-ray guns, and condition reports to textile restorations. In the Natural History Museum we had the privilege to page through Jones' Icones, a six volume collection of original paintings and descriptions representing over 760 Lepidoptera species from around the world. This was completed in the late 18th century by an amateur entomologist William Jones of Chelsey.
Finally we enjoyed a very interesting presentation and viewing of the collections of the Plant Taxonomy Department’s Sherardian Library. We could see a selection of the 966 original watercolor original plates for the Flora Graeca painted by Ferdinand Bauer, also his sketches. In addition to that we could see Dampier’s Journal, the first documentation of Australian plants from 1699 (published 1703) and other exceptional rarities. 
You can see a few pictures from our day by clicking here.

An unknown botanical artist with an unknown date, likely from the early 19th century

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives starts is London: The day of Arrival

After arriving to to London our first location to visit was the Linnean Society . Due to the flight delay we didn't have as much time to browse through the rarities. After the very warm welcome we were presented a selection of works from unique field floras and sketchbooks to James Sowerby's and Ehret's illustrations. Our 2016 tour has started very well!
For more images from our first day, please click here.

Ehret's illustration of banana (part of the lettering is gold)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Drawing to Think with Sarah Simblet

Sarah Simblet demonstrating her techniques outside the classroom

Sarah Simblet from the U.K. visited us in the beginning of March. Her 2-week long stay was filled with instructing three sold-out courses and a public lecture. The 36 students who were able to enjoy her teaching were amazed and extremely happy by the strong enriching experience. Sarah Simblet is dedicated to sharing and encouraging visual intelligence in others through her teaching and drawings. You can see some pictures from these classes by clicking here  

View from the Gardens by Shiere Melin