Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The amazing botanical illustration of Robert John Thornton

On the left  Thornton's botanical illustration and on the right my digital manipulation of it.
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Thornton's Temple of Flora from 1799 is considered as a jewel of vintage botany, The Temple of Flora from 1799. This book catalogued all known flora in the world in one gloriously lyrical, detailed paean to plants. View a full size of this image here! This was another resource made available to contestants of Redbubble and State Library Victoria #createarthistory challenge.

"Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768–1837) devoted himself to botany. He wished his work to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist Carl Linnaeus. He left us stunning floral portraits. His botanical illustration is art. Complete editions of The Temple of Flora are today among the great treasures of only a few libraries. Notice the allure of their unusual combination of monumental and at times exotic plants with highly romantic background landscapes. More than any other floral painting, the bewitchingly illuminated blossoms of the night-blooming cereus, posed before darkened ruins, conveys the late 18th-century sentiment that found its characteristic expression in the European Romantic literature and painting of the following decades. " (Adapted from Tashen)

Thornton was determined to produce a British work that would surpass the scholarship of German botanical texts and the artistry of those from France. But Thornton's book, in fact, turned out to be one of the great publishing follies of all time. It attracted mocking reviews and quickly ran into financial difficulties. Read this article to get to know that fantastic story of this famous book!

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