Botanical art is also known as botanical illustration, especially for emphasising its illustrative quality, of being able to explain, through image. Botanical illustration lays, therefore, at the fine border between art and science. Depending on the artists, it can be associated with bot scientific illustration and flower painting. So, where does botanical art begin, and where does it end?
Flower painting has a beautiful tradition and a rich past, specialty in Flemish art. Today, flower painting is, most of the time, in a silent war with modern forms of painting, as modernity tends to reject the figurative decorative. Flower painting remains, after all, a decorative subject, regardless the technique, carefully balancing itself between classical and modern. As a difference, botanical painting takes a step aside this discussion. In botanical art there is no importance to the ability of perfect copy of the model, not to the depiction of reality. Botanical painting requests the realisation of a certain composition, that many time is imagined and recomposed from sketches, photography and dry specimen drawing.
This particular composition has to show the main characteristics of the represented plant as a specie, not as a particular item. A such a complex work can last from 4 to 100 hours, it is highly possible that the subject will have changed its aspect by the end of the painting process. This is why botanical artists are trained to create compositions after long periods of field research, herbarium research, microscope study, sketching and learning botany. A great deal of study is compulsory in order to fully understand the geometry of a plant, the way it is developing and moving, in order to represent it correctly. Many color tests are being made, light and shadow simulations, texture studies, and only when all these notions are clear, drawing can begin. A botanical work shows the plant drawn at natural scale 1:1, with real color and texture, and makes its best in offering a view on different phases of the plant’s development, such as flower but, bloom and fruit. No background shall be used, in order to keep the focus on the main details. Besides all these technical rules, we still call it “art”. Botanical art. And this is because, as only natural, each artist leaves his own touch in the technique and general aspect. Personal artistic abilities are obvious in the choice of subject and composition. Botanical art remains a classical tradition. It offers that, what photography cannot offer, which is a wide range of detail and accuracy. But beyond its scientific purpose, it remains a form of art, associated with great royal houses, such as France or Great Britain, and also associated to noble interiors and elegant decors.