Hunt presents quaint exhibit

What We Collect: Recent Art Acquisitions 2007 - 2012 showcases intricate botanical illustrations. (credit: Haley Bryant/) What We Collect: Recent Art Acquisitions 2007 - 2012 showcases intricate botanical illustrations. (credit: Haley Bryant/)

As one would expect from the title, What We Collect: Recent Art Acquisitions 2007–2012 features artwork acquired by the Hunt Institute’s art department. The exhibit, which opened last Friday at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation on the fifth floor of Hunt Library, is the accumulation of art dating back to the 1800s, making for a unique environment with a quaint feel. While some may ask, “Who would want to see pictures of plants?” the charm of the exhibit stems from the individual perspectives of the plants that each artist expresses.

Speaking of the artists, there are a plethora of them featured at the exhibit, making it enjoyable for a wider variety of people. Such artists include Pancrace Bessa, whose works were featured at the library four years ago in his own exhibit, called Pancrace Bessa and the Golden Age of French Botanical Illustration. Bessa was a French natural history artist whose botanical illustrations are characteristically detailed, probably a result of his years as a student of engraver Gerard van Spaendonck. His realistic illustrations of fruit and flowers transport the viewer to a garden or countryside abounding with beautiful flora.

Another 19th-century artist whose works are displayed at the exhibit is James Sowerby. An English naturalist and illustrator, Sowerby made illustrations that, upon first glance, look quite similar to those that Bessa produced. However, further examination shows that Sowerby’s style appears less realistic, though just as beautiful. While his older works were reminiscent of an old English countryside, his newer, more modern pieces of art have somewhat of a different feel.

One of the more contemporary artists whose work seems similar to those of Bessa and Sowerby is Beverly Duncan. Though her art also portrays a hint of the old-time feel that the other illustrations have, one views them differently knowing that they are newer. In fact, Duncan’s paintings reminds one of a kitchen, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Her paintings were mainly watercolor on vellum, an interesting combination that fit well into the theme of the variety of media.

The exhibit could be described as quaint, historical, and varied because it features so many different artistic methods. These ranged from watercolor on vellum, as in Duncan’s work, to charcoal drawing, even to wood engravings and copper etching. Not only were there detailed images of plants, such as those done by Bessa and Sowerby, but also seemingly accurate cross-sections of plants featured at the exhibit. The What We Collect exhibit is educational as well: One can learn how the history of people’s views of plants have changed and grown more intricate over time through the old and modern field guides and textbooks included in the exhibit.

This exhibit is open to the public and is free of charge. If you ever feel like taking a break from studying while at the library, or have an interest in artwork relating to nature, check out the exhibit for a truly unique experience.