The history of plants and gardening has been recorded in botanical art. Several artists have been known for their works on cacti and succulents.
Priscilla Susan Bury was an English artist who specialized in plants and flowers early in her career. Born sometime during the mid-1820’s, she died during the 1860’s. From her childhood, she was exposed to flowers, and began painting when she was only a child.
For her subjects, Bury often selected exotic plants from her family’s greenhouse. A collection of her work appeared in a book called “A Collection of Hexandrian Plants.” She also did work for other botanical books of the period. One of her paintings is of a succulent, Echeveria racemosa. This shows the entire plant with a rosette of foliage along with flowering stems. This painting also includes small sketches of the flowers and seeds as well as cross sections of the flowers.
Jean-Nicolas La Hire (1685-1727) was a member of the Academy of Science in Paris and a physician. He had compiled a collection of nature prints, some of which had been enhanced with opaque white. The images were done by first drying and then coating them with ink. Then, the plants were pressed against sheets of paper.
Only a certain number of copies could be printed from an individual plant because they tended to disintegrate due to the pressure during the printing process. La Hire’s images included several cacti and succulents.
One of La Hire’s works is of the century plant. This shows a rosette of foliage. He also had a nature print of an aloe. In addition, there was one of Cereus erectus, which was reportedly from Surinam. This nature print showed a thin, columnar spiny, ribbed plant.
The art of Jean Grandville was remarkable for many reasons. She created a world of fantasy using flowers much like Anne Geddes does in her photos. Her flowers and plants were personified. One portrait of a woman shows her dressed in a gown made of cactus stems with strips of fabric in between the plant stems. Large cactus flowers serve as the sleeves. Another bloom is worn as a hat. The dress depicts one of the cereus or hylocereus-type cactus. Two large stems make up the bodice of the dress.
At her feet is a pot containing a succulent that looks like a century plant. Grandville published a book called “Les Fleurs Animes.” In 1847, an American edition was released that was titled “The Flowers Personified.”