25th August: Poetic Botany – Art and Science of the Eighteenth-Century Vegetable World

Published on 25th August 2016

Poetic Botany

Poetic Botany identifies an eighteenth-century movement in which botany became the subject of poetry. The relationship between art and science cultivated during this movement resulted in a rich trove of botanical knowledge, sumptuously presented in books, artworks, and gardens.

This online exhibition developed by The New York Botanical Garden will introduce the poetic botanists who constituted this movement, the works they created, and the themes implicated in their works. Above all, though, this exhibition will present nine of the most beautiful, curious, and sensational species living within those very pages.

​Note from the Curator

Selenicereus grandiflorus
Selenicereus grandiflorus © Poetic Botany

Poetic Botany: Art and Science of the Eighteenth-Century Vegetable World is a digital exhibition that brings together historical and contemporary resources—illustrations, photographs, videos, texts, and more—in an attempt to facilitate an experience not possible in a traditional museum setting.

An overarching aim of the exhibition is to reveal that plants, like humans, are agents of historical change. Another aim is to reaffirm that the imagination is an ecological force, responsible for how we have thought of nature in the past, how we think of it now, and how we will think of it in the future. The imagination, moreover, flaunts any boundary imposed on it by disciplines or areas of expertise, showing itself to be at home as much in the arts as in the humanities as in the sciences.

Canna indica
Canna indica © Poetic Botany

Any view of nature, then, that ignores a discipline or entire domain of disciplines is necessarily deficient. At the same time, paradoxically, any view that sacrifices the expertise that results from the focus of one of these disciplines will also be severely impoverished.

Hence, a complete view of nature can only result from an openness to the work of one another, from an ongoing collaboration and commitment to understand the more-than-human world through art, scholarship, and science.

Poetic Botany celebrates this very effort, along with the artists, scientists, and scholars of both the eighteenth-century and our own time. These figures attempt to understand the vegetable world, and in so doing offer us a wealth of perspectives that substantially enrich our own engagements with nature.

Ryan Feigenbaum, Curator of the Digital Exhibition, The New York Botanical Garden.