You won’t know where to begin when you visit this fascinating exhibition, showing at the Natural History Museum in Kensington. Jars of pickled sharks and taxidermied birds vie for your attention, along with countless scientific illustrations and classical paintings.
Originally, natural history illustrations were created to pass on scientific knowledge, but in recent years they have also been used for more decorative purposes.
Warne Crabs. British crabs Ernest C. Mansell
It seemed fitting to visit an exhibition devoted to British scientific illustration, as the natural world forms the backbone behind many of our own designs. We even named one of our cushions after Carl Linnaeus, one of the leading botanical artists of the 18th century.
You could spend all day perusing the artworks. Wowed by the sketches of shells, animal skull maquettes and prints from leading scientific artists, we were thoroughly impressed. The works of Barbara Everard, John Emmerson Robson and James Hope Stewart were particularly interesting, due to their stylistic approach.
Robson 51. Oak eggar, Lasiocampa quercus John Emmerson Robson (1833-1907)
Without scientific illustration, it would be harder to capture the more transient aspects of nature (the lifecycle of a butterfly, a bird taking flight or a scattering of richly coloured leaves falling from a tree, for example). Plus, this type of work acts as a permanent record of specimens which could one day be forgotten. Take the Dodo: there are only a few fragments of Dodo bones left in the world and without earlier works depicting the comical bird in all its glory, how would we have known of its existence?
The exhibit is suitable for the entire family and boasts interactive displays and a user-generated gallery wall. If you would like to have your own specimen drawing displayed in the world famous Natural History Museum, simply pick up a pen, grab some paper (provided by the gallery) and draw something from one of the many exhibits. Remember to post it in the box found near the exit. People from all over the world, of all ages, have contributed.
Violet helleborine, Epipactis purpurata Hilda Margaret Godfery (1871-1930)
There are over 71,000 different species found in the British Isles alone and this great collection does many of them justice. The artwork is so stunning, you’ll want to take them all home with you. Fortunately, you can find a number of prints and pictures on our website, inspired by early botanical illustrations and the correlation between art and science.