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Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora – Part III

Robert John Thornton (1768–1837) was an English physician with a great interest to natural history. Lucky enough, he inherited a considerable fortune which allowed him to devote his life to his passion – the botany.  Thornton invested his money in producing his dream – a magnificent book of illustrations of the Linnean sysem of classification

He collaborated with artists like Peter Henderson, Philip Reinagle, Abraham Pether and Sydenham Edwards and insisted that they should set the plants in the full splendour of their natural habitat.

The initial plan was to publish seventy beautiful coloured illustrations with text but unfortunately it turned out too expensive and the profits insufficient to cover them.  Finally only thirty-three coloured plates, engraved in aquatint, stipple and line were produced but yet enough to be considered as one of the most gorgeous fine flower-book prized by collectors worldwide.

Main sources Public Domain Review, University of Glasgow Library – Special Collections and The newest edition of The Temple of Flora  published by Taschen


Illustrated Music Sheets – E.D. (monogram)

E.D. - Musical sheets

E.D. – Musical sheets


What an inspirational site! With more than 10.000 illustrated music sheets! This is a private collection and the pieces are mostly from the periods Art Nouveau and Art Deco. A lot to of works to enjoy in Images Musicales if you love these art movements.

Who is E.D. (monogram) I chose? Nobody can say yet. The name of the illustrator is unknown and only his initials are legible. There are more of his works here.

It is really worth it to visit the site and browse the reach library.


John Bauer – Scandinavian mythology

John Albert Bauer (1882 – 1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator, best known for his illustrations of the early editions (between 1907 – 1915) of an anthology of Swedish folklore, called Among Gnomes and Trolls (Bland tomtar och troll )

Besides of his artistic talent, probably he owes part of his success to his deep connection with this subject. Still as a child, Bauer was enchanted by the local stories about strange creatures living in the dense forests. Fascinated by the Swedish nature, he constantly drew an inspiration from there to convey the eerie mood of the fairy tales – old stately trees, light sneaking through the intertwined branches, huge tufts of mosses, mushrooms, and creepy roots. As per the depiction of the heroes, especially those of the princes and princesses and their clothing, he was mostly influenced by the Renaissance.

Bauer was born and raised in Jönköping but at the age of 16 he moved to Stockholm. Unfortunately his life did not last long. A tragedy occurred on the 20th of November 1918, when the ship he had embarked along with his family sank in Lake Vättern due to an overload cargo.

Though he died young, he left an impressive heritage of illustrations that are considered among the classics in fairy tales

The world’s largest collection of his artwork is exhibited in a museum in his native town. The Jönköpings läns museum owns over 1,000 of paintings, drawings and sketches by Bauer. There are also three other collections in Sweden – at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, at the Gothenburg Museum of Art and at the Malmö konstmuseum, as well one museum in Ebenhausen, Germany, dedicated especially to his life and works.


Ferdinand Bauer – Flora Graeca

Blame it on the spring, but I’ll stay tuned on the same floral theme.

And this post is about a book proclaimed as “the greatest botanical work that has ever appeared” – the magnificent “Flora Graeca”.

Ferdinand Bauer - Flora Graeca

Ferdinand Bauer – Flora Graeca


It actually is not just a single book but a monumental compilation of 10 volumes of floral specimens previously unknown to science. They were collected by the English botanist John Sibthorp (1758 – 1796) from the flora of Greece during his two trips in 1786-87 and in 1794-95. With respect and admiration to his enormous work, but what catch the eye are the beautiful drawings of the Austrian illustrator Ferdinand Βauer (1760 – 1826). Bauer’s work is now regarded as one of the finest examples of botanical illustration and is highly appreciated by all plant lovers, not only by the specialists.

In reality, Bauer accompanied Sibthorp only on his first journey. Unable to carry with him on a field the range of colours needed, he made accurate preliminary sketches with a pencil filling them with a lot of numbers. These figures were his mysterious code to re-create afterwards the exact tones, colours and shades of the specimens. Upon returning in England he stayed a few years in Oxford producing 966 superbly water-coloured illustrations, all of them included subsequently in “Flora Graeca”.

Sibthorp died at a young age of 37 and accordingly to his will, he bequeathed his whole property to the Oxford University on condition that the income which would come from the exploitation of his fortune would be allocated to the publication of ‘Flora Graeca’ in 10 volumes.

The publishing of the first two volumes of this labour-intensive work started in 1806 and it took 34 years to complete it. Until 1828 gradually followed another four, the 7th appeared in 1830 and finally in 1840 this unique collection was finished with the last three.

Bauer created illustrations superior to anything of their kind in existence then, and his work was to become one of the most valuable treasures of the University of Oxford. The originals are now safely kept in the Bodleian Libraries in the Department of Plant Sciences.

For a closer look, see this short video from the series Treasures of the Bodleian, Flora Graeca.


Katsushika Hokusai – Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji

Look well at the first image with the threatening wave. Isn’t it a breathtaking drawing? I was mesmerized by it seeing it years ago. You can almost feel the very last moment of your life, just before it submerges you in its embrace.

This is the famous “Great Wave off Kanagawa” – probably the most iconic work of the Japanese art – and was created by Katsushika Hokusai. It is a part of a series of woodblock prints titled “36 views of Mount Fuji” made between 1830-1833 but due to its popularity and commercial success it was expanded with another 10 prints, thus the total actually adds up to 46.

The choice of Mount Fuji as a major theme was not accidental. It is the highest mountain in Japan and its beautiful shape with the snowy peak for long time had been infusing with a mythical aura the imagination of the Japanese. It was considered a sacred place where everybody should go on a pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime. Its presence in all of the prints conveys the idea of eternity and how insignificant we are to the passage of time, and the beauty of nature. Besides of the main subject itself, the way it is depicted with a constantly changing angle of focusing our attention upon it and combined with the daily activities of the Japanese from different classes, creates an impression of seeing a documentary about the life in pre-industrial Japan.

The mountain could be observed in varies viewpoints – from occupying an enormous space in the frame to a tiny detail in the background even barely noticeable. Nevertheless of its place and size it is always well incorporated to the portrayed fragments from life of the local people. In some its magnificence stands out poetically in the distance admired by the wealthier circles of society. In others is like a silent witness to the daily routine for survival of the ordinarily people. This dance with the viewer’s eye explores the relationship between man and his natural environment. This technique applied by the artist, Katsushika Hokusai, was an innovation for the ukiyo-e prints within the times he lived.

Ukiyo-e is a genre of woodblock prints which flourished in Japan during the Edo Period from the 17th to the 19th century. It means “a floating world” and its aim was to entertain the public with subjects like courtesans, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers and erotica. With his works in the late Edo period, Hokusai moved away from these customary themes and refocused the attention to the landscape, flora and fauna, and to the people’s everyday activities.

Katsushika Hokusai was born 1760 and died in 1849 at the remarkable age of 88. He did not stop working through his whole life. The masterpieces however were created  after the age of 60. The series “36 views of Mount Fuji”  is among them.

During his life Japan had put itself in an isolation to the outside world, but still there were some trade relations with the Dutch who introduced the Western art to the Japanese. Hokusai was deeply influenced by these works from which he adopted the linear perspective but converted it in his own Japanese variation. A few years after his death, the Americans forced Japan to open to the west and in his turn his compositional genius was started to be admired on the west by the prominent artists, and especially by the impressionists.


Ivan Bilibin – Russian folklore

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876 – 1945) was a 20th-century illustrator and stage designer, deeply inspired by Slavic folklore. He was born in a suburb of St. Petersburg and studied in Art Schools in Munich under Anton Ažbe and in his native town under the famous Russian painter Ilya Repin. Major influence upon his art was the journey he made in the Russian North (1902–1904) where he became fascinated with old wooden architecture and Russian folklore. Up to the  October Revolution, he was working for different local magazines and released a book with illustrations of fairy tales, but in 1917 he left Russia after the revolution proved alien to him. He settled in Paris in 1925, where he decorated private mansions and Orthodox churches. However longing for his homeland and after decorating the Soviet Embassy in 1936, he returned to Soviet Russia, delivering lectures at the Russian Academy of Arts until 1941. Bilibin died during the Siege of Leningrad and was buried in a collective grave.

Source Wikipedia