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Major Print Artists

MAJOR PRINT ARTISTS

We have listed below some of the most important artists specializing in antique prints and maps along with a short biography.

GEORGE BAXTER - 1804-1867

Baxter is considered the inventor of multiple-color printing. While color printing had been practiced for many years, prints were mostly hand-colored, or printed with a limited range of colors. The Baxter Process, which he patented in 1835, involved a metal keyplate and up to 20 other blocks to apply each color in rich layers.

The keyplate was a major innovation, and gave the images a sharpness never seen before. He was a perfectionist in mixing his own inks, using the best papers, and getting perfect registration on a hand press to create miniature oil paintings. His works were the first to be published in full color.

 BASILIUS BESLER - 1561-1629
Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Johan Konrad von Gemmingen (1561-1612) was Prince-Bishop of Eichstatt, Germany. He had a magnificent garden planted at his Episcopal residence. This garden was one of the first of its kind, an inclusive display of shrubs and flowering plants from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. He commissioned Besler to do the Hortus Eystettensis prints to show his garden through the seasons. Many plants are illustrated life size. It took Besler 16 years and a number of engravers to create the folio-size copperplates for the edition of 300 books. It is considered one of the greatest botanical books ever printed.

 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon – 1707-1788

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturlist, matrhematician, cosmologist, and encyclopedic author.

His works influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lemarck and Georges Cuvier. Buffon published thirty-six quarto volumes of his Histoire Naturelle during his lifetime; with additional volumes based on his notes and further research being published in the two decades following his death. It has been said that "Truly, Buffon was the father of all thought in natural history in the second half of the 18th century". Buffon held the position of intendant (director) at the Jardin du Roi, now called the Jardin des Plantes; it is the French equivalent of Kew Gardens.

 
WILLIAM CURTIS - 1746-1799
Curtis Botanical Magazine, 1787-present

William Curtis was born in Alton, Hampshire. He began his professional life as an apothecary, then turned his attention to botany and other natural history. At that time, botany was closely related to medicine, and Curtis held a position at the Kew Gardens. His first publication, the Flora Lodinensis, published in six volumes in 1777- 1798, was a pioneering work on urban nature, but was not financially successful.

In 1787, Curtis began publishing The Botanical Magazine, now known as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. The magazine provided a way for general readers to learn botanical identification and information, illustrated by some of the finest botanical artists of the time. Sydenham Edwards did most of the illustration for the first volume. After an editorial dispute, Sydenham left to produce his own magazine, The Botanical Register. The very first plate was produced by James Sowerby. (Biographies for Edwards and Sowerby are also included on this page.) The first 30 volumes were illustrated with copper engravings that were hand-colored with watercolor; the coloring was done by up to 30 people.

When Curtis died, his friend John Sims became the next editor; he hired Matilda Smith as the next principal artist. Between 1878 and 1923 Smith drew over 2,300 plates for the magazine. She also became the first botanic artist at Kew Gardens. All of the magazines artists worked closely with botanists to produce the high quality illustrations, with exploded details, that make the magazine a valued resource for botanists, horticulturists, and gardeners.

The magazine is still published by Kew Gardens, making it one of the oldest continuously published botanical magazines in the world.

SYDENHAM EDWARDS - 1768-1819
The Botanical Register

Sydenham Edwards became interested in botanical illustration at an early age; when he was 11 he copied plates from William Curtis’s Flora Londinensis for enjoyment. When Curtis was informed of this by a friend, Curtis had Edwards trained in both botany and botanical illustration. Edwards worked at a prodigious rate: between 1787 and 1815, he produced over 1,700 illustrations for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. After a disagreement with John Sims, who was the second editor of the magazine, Edwards left the publication and created his own, the Botanical Register, in 1815.

Edwards also illustrated the Cynographica Britannica (1800), the New Botanic Garden (1805-7), and the New Flora Britannica (1812). He provided illustrations for encyclopedias such as Pantologia and Rees’s Cyclopaedia. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society.

 Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774)

A History of the Earth and Animated Nature.

The first edition (in eight volumes) appeared in London in 1774. The work sought to draw together virtually all that was known about the planet earth, its plants and animals, and even its human inhabitants described from a biological perspective.  Goldsmith had intended to translate Pliny's Natural History, but after reading Buffon, he decided that "the best imitation of the ancients was to write from our own feelings and to imitate nature."  Goldsmith's Animated Nature went through over twenty editions into the Victorian era and served as a popular source of information about the natural world.

 

SIR WILLIAM JARDINE - 1800-1874
The Naturalist's Library, 1833-1842

Sir William Jardine, a noted Scottish ichthyologist and ornithologist, produced The Naturalist’s Library, 40 volumes on birds, animals, fish, and insects. His intent was to make this type of book available and affordable to all interested in natural history, not just to the rich who could afford lavish large color plate books. Begun in 1833, the series became his life work.

Jardine gathered some of the finest naturalists of his day, including Edward Lear, Prideaux John Selby, and William Swainson., to work on the series. Several plates were engraved after naturalist masters such as John James Audubon, John Gould, and Maria Sybilla Merian. Jardine chose William H. Lizars as the engraver. The work is still one of the finest and most thorough studies of natural history. (See further information on Lizars in the bio below on this page.)

Jardine also studied botany and geology, and was a member of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

FRANK LESLIE
Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War

The images used in Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly newspaper (and in other newspapers of the time such as Harper’s Weekly) were created from wood engravings carved specifically for this purpose. Thousands of wood engravings were created at the time for this type of journalism, because other technology to print photos in the quantities needed for news journals did not exist at the time.

But the wooden blocks dried and were cracked by the press, and unusable for further printing. When Mrs. Frank Leslie issued a collection of old engravings from the Illustrated Weekly in 1896, the photogravure process had been developed, and it was the process used in the Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War.

 WILLIAM HOME LIZARS - 1788-1859

William Home Lizars was an eminent Scottish engraver and painter. He was trained at the Trustee’s Academy of Edinburgh, and quickly acquired an excellent reputation for the quality of his work in many fields. In 1820, he began to focus almost exclusively on natural history, and engravings in this field are still considered some of the finest of the nineteenth century.

While Lizars is known for his work with John James Audubon, he is best known for his work with William Jardine as the engraver for the 40-volume The Naturalist’s Library. Lizars used steel plates for the Library, allowing him to create delicately engraved plates with exceptionally fine and accurate detail. Lizars worked with Jardine on the Library throughout its publication, from 1833 to 1842.

JANE WELLS LOUDON - 1807-1858
The Ladies' Flower Garden, 1807-1858

When Jane Loudon was orphaned at 17, she wrote a novel set in the 22nd century, “The Mummy,” under a male pen name. She met her husband John Loudon when he was intrigued by the book and asked to meet the author. John was an important 19th century horticultural writer and well-known gardener; Jane worked with him on his literary projects and began gardening with him. As her gardening knowledge and botanical illustration work grew, she become a horticultural authority herself. She was able to support herself with her work when John died early in their marriage.

Between 1807 and 1858, Jane published The Ladies’ Flower Garden, with an innovation in botanical illustration. Her illustrations grouped flowers of various kinds and species, like a gardener gathering a bouquet. She stopped writing novels, and published well-received garden books. Her Instructions in Gardening for Ladies sold 20,000 copies, an unusually large number for that time.

 

ANNE PRATT - 1806-1893
The Flowering Plants, Grasses, Sedges and Ferns of Great Britain 1855-1866

Anne Pratt, born in Stroud, Kent, England, was one of the best-known botanical artists of the Victorian Age. She took to drawing as a child in poor health. Introduced to botany by Dr. Dods, a family friend, she decided to develop a career as an illustrator. She wrote 20 books which she illustrated with chromolithographs. Her greatest work was the 5-volume The Flowering Plants, Grasses, Sedges, and Ferns of Great Britain published from 1855-1866.

 

JAMES SOWERBY - 1757-1822
Sowerby's Botany, 1790-1814

James Sowerby, a naturalist and illustrator, studied at the Royal Academy. His first publication venture was illustrating William Curtis’s Flora Londinensis. Early volumes of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine include a number of Sowerby’s works.

Sowerby worked on huge projects. Among them was Sowerby’s Botany, a 36-volume work begun in 1790 and published over the next 24 years. It contained 2592 hand-colored illustrations. Sowerby’s work was distinguished by careful attention to descriptions, detailed drawings from specimens, and research. He wanted to reach an audience that was curious about gardening and the natural world, with attractive scientific illustration and affordable works. His work also became highly valued by researchers.

Sowerby also developed his own theory of color, and did work in fossils and in mineralogy.

 

ROBERT THORNTON - 1768-1837
The Temple of Flora 1797-1810

Thornton was a physician who quit practicing when he received a large inheritance. He used the money to pursue his passion of botany. This large folio series was to have seventy plates illustrating Linnaeus’ discoveries about the reproductive system of plants. It was an ambitious project that caused him financial ruin. There were only thirty-two plates completed, but it became one of the most famous of flower books. The images were created using aquatint, mezzotint, and engraving. They are unusual in that each flower is presented in a fantastic setting or landscape as proscribed by Thornton.

LOUIS VAN HOUTTE - 1810-1876
Flores des Serres et des Jardins de l’Europe, Ghent, Belgium, 1845-1883

Van Houtte was a Belgian Horticulturist associated with the Jardin Botanique de Brussels from 1836-1839. After an expedition to Brazil, he moved to Ghent, Belgium, where he founded the Ecole d’Horticulture and the journal Flore des serres et des Jardins de l’Europe with Charles Lemaire. Lemaire was a renowned artist who worked for Redoute in France.

Van Houtte owned Establishment Van Houtte, the most esteemed nursery on the continent in the mid 19th Century. He commissioned numerous teams of plant explorers to gather plants in Central and South America for propagation in this nursery, which covered 14 hectares and 50 greenhouses.

JOHANN WILHELM WEINMANN - 1683-1741
Phytanthoza Iconographica 1737-1745

Weinmann was an influential pharmacist and botanist who produced one of the most comprehensive sets of botanical images. His background as an apothecary is evident in the composition of the prints, which are both scientific and beautiful. He used mezzotint to achieve the subtle variations in flowers and leaves. In the Great Flower Book, Satchervall Sitwell refers to this set as a "pioneering work of botanical prints engraved to be inked in color."

 

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