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Cacti and Succulents in Art

Paintings of cacti and succulents can be found in a number of sources. These include calendars as well as gardening and art books.

Georg Dionysius Ehret was a leading botanical artist of the day during the 1700’s. He was considered to be among the best European artists. He did a collection of watercolors for a book that appeared in installments between 1750-1773. “Plantae Selectae” was written by Christopher Jacob Trew.

Later after leaving Europe, Ehret also established a successful career in England where he taught art. Many of these watercolors are of exotic tropical species that had been introduced to Europe.

Ehret was the son of a market gardener, and completed a gardener’s apprenticeship. After receiving art lessons from his father, he discovered his love of art. He supported himself by working as a gardener until his art career became successful.

Some of his watercolors were reproduced in the 2003 engagement calendar that was published by the New York Botanical Garden. Perhaps, the garden’s gift shop sells cards and other items featuring his work.

For the calendar, the garden chose drawings from its extensive collection of botanical illustrations. The garden’s horticultural library is among the largest in the world with works dating from the 12th century to the present.

Among the cacti and succulent watercolors in the calendar was Cereus gracilis. This showed the entire plant in bloom. There is also a closeup of the flower as well as cross sections of the flower, portions of the stem with flower buds, and seeds/fruits.

The calendar also featured Cereus minimus in an urn. This also depicts a portion of the stem with flowers as well as a cross section of the fruits, flowers, and seeds. In the pot is a stake to which one of the stems is tied. The other trailing stems hang over the sides of the pot. This plant had long, cylindrical, spiny stems and very large pink blooms with very long flower tubes.

Other gardening books have reproduced some botanical illustrations. “Fruit-An Illustrated History” by Peter Blackburne-Maze was released by Firefly. This was a Royal Horticultural Society book. This included the pitaya (Hylocereus undatus), which looks somewhat like a cereus. The original sketch is from “The Cactaceae,” volume two by Britton and Rose, which was published in 1919. This sketch shows thin, cylindrical, almost woody stem with triangular offshoots. This is shown with the ripe fruits. There are also drawings of the interior of the fruits as well.




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