Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Cacti and succulents have often been the subject of botanical art. Botanical illustrations reached its heyday during the age of exploration when many new species of plants were introduced to Europe. Here are some highlights of botanical art featuring cacti and succulents.
Mary Emily Eaton was an award winning English artist who lived during the late Victorian era (1873-1961). After training in art and drafting, she was employed to create designs for porcelain by the Royal Porcelain Works.
Later in her career, she specialized in butterflies and worked for the New York Botanical Garden where she did work for a number of botanical publications. She also illustrated a book on American wildflowers, which was published by the National Geographic Society. This book included some cacti although the plates didn’t always seem to identify the species. As a result of the Depression, she was unable to find work in America and returned to her home country. Over a thousand of her paintings have been published.
Adam Lonicer, for whom the honeysuckle genus is named, published an herbal in 1557. He was city physician for Frankfurt-am-Main, and was also professor of mathematics at the University of Marburg.
One of the plants he featured in his herbal was the prickly pear. The sketch showed a shrubby-like plant with fruits. It has a low fence or edging around the base. Judging from the illustration, it is hard to tell whether the plant is growing in a raised bed or not. It may be in a pot. This shows grass growing around the base of the plant. The sketch shows a few fruits but no flowers.
Emma Homan Thayer received extensive training as an artist. This American artist was born in 1842 and died in 1908. In her early career, she specialized in figure painting. She was a member of the Art League of New York and had many exhibitions of her work.
Following the death of her first husband, she remarried and moved out west. From then on, she painted native wildflowers and published several books on the subject. These include “Wild Flowers of Colorado” and Wild Flowers of the Pacific Coast. These books featured numerous cacti and succulents. One plate depicts a prickly pear in full bloom. Unlike some botanical artists, she depicted the plants in natural settings.