Artist, Scientist, Explorer: Mark Catesby in the Carolinas

Published on 12th April 2017

Catesby Summer Duck
The Summer Duck (1722–1726) by Mark Catesby. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Charleston's Gibbes Museum of Art announces a new special exhibition opening—Artist, Scientist, Explorer: Mark Catesby in the Carolinas. The show, which runs from 12 May – 24 September 2017, features 44 watercolor paintings by English artist, scientist and explorer Mark Catesby, generously lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from the British Royal Collection. In 1722, Catesby arrived in Charleston and traveled throughout South Carolina and beyond documenting birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals indigenous to the American colonies. Eighty percent of these watercolours have never been seen in the US before.

On Saturday, 13 May there will be a symposium on The World of Mark Catesby that it is open to the public. Starting at 9 am with Henrietta McBurney—formerly Deputy Keeper of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and followed by Leslie Overstreet—Curator Natural History Rare Books at the Smithsonian Libraries and the leading authority on Catesby's masterwork The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Henrietta and Leslie are not only the authors of relevant chapters in The Curious Mister Catesby: a "truly ingenious" naturalist explores new world, but were also advisors in the production of the PBS documentary The Curious Mister Catesby.

Catesby Red Bird
The Red Bird, the Hiccory Tree and the Pignut (722–1726) by Mark Catesby. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Some original George Edwards watercolours will also be exhibited. These watercolours, which have been in Charleston's Drayton family for almost three centuries, are now housed at Charleston's historic Drayton Hall plantation. The panel discussion will be introduced by Professor Richard Porcher—leading authority on the botany and agriculture of colonial South Carolina, and will be moderated by Professor Patrick McMillan. Panelists will include Carter Hudgins—President of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust and David Elliott—Executive Director of the Catesby Commemorative Trust.

The Gibbes Museum of Art will be holding other events during the course of the summer, including two screenings of The Curious Mister Catesby on 30 May and 20 July. The May 30 event will also include a book signing by Sylvia Bacon, principal author of a new picture book Mark Catesby's Natural History: An Introduction.