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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Potions, Poisons and Panaceas

This fall the School of Botanical Art and Illustration joined with the Art Gallery at the Fulginity Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the Anschutz Medical Campus (University of Colorado) to produce an exhibition of contemporary botanical illustrations entitled Poisons, Potions and Panaceas, featuring plants with medicinal properties.
You can see the exhibit including the outstanding interpretation on-line by clicking here, you can also find an icon to the exhibit on the right hand column.

This exhibition - Potions, Poisons and Panaceas - highlights both the medical and pharmaceutical properties of certain plants, revives our sense of awe when confronted by the beauty and mystery of nature, as well as it introduces us to an art-form that - though it retains many of its characteristic historical qualities - has evolved and incorporated many aspects and assumptions of modernity.
Simon Zalkind, Curator of Exhibitions
Fulginity Center for Bioethics and Humanities

Historical Ties between Botanical Illustration and Medicine
The origins of botanical illustration and the science of botany progressed alongside the history of medicine, especially pharmacology, in ancient Greece. In the 4th century BCE, Diokles of Carystus compiled the earliest known herbal, a medicinal reference manual for botanical study and plant identification. This work, and so many of its successors, have not survived. Although we do not know about the quality and accuracy of these illustrations, we do know that very early on, the Greek herbalists realized the power of the image.
The period of exploration and discovery in the 18th and 19th centuries is said to be the golden age of botanical and nature illustration. Thousands of plates and sketches were produced by skilled naturalists while exploring unknown parts of the world. Today an estimated 391,000 plant species are known for science of which nearly 21,000 have a documented usage in medicine. The documentation work is ongoing even today, and the search for new species continues.
The botanical illustrations that accompany scholarly works have a clear purpose of species identification with the artist acting as the hand and eye of the researcher. Botanical illustration, like any scientific illustration, requires accuracy, realism and objectivity, as opposed to emotion and sensitivity that is often found in other art fields. The illustrator’s ability to observe and accurately record details has proven to be superior to the detail found in a photograph.

Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Manager of the School of Botanical Art & Illustration
(Image: Susan Curnutte, watercolor and graphite)

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