Exploring personal relationships with plants in the Linnaeus' New Portrait Competition

Our annual competition for 8-13-year-olds is back!

Published on 30th August 2021

Linnaeus' New Portrait Competition

Linneaus' New Portrait is an annual competition for 8-13-year-olds to create a new portrait which Carl Linnaeus would really like. It all started thanks to a kind donation from Hazel Marsden to begin some much-needed conservation work on a portrait of Linnaeus (featured in the centre of the image above).

Since then, we've run three rounds of this annual competition with different subjects including: recreate Linnaeus, reimagine Linnaeus, and last year we asked for a portrait of Linnaeus' pet raccoon.

John Tyley's Breadfruit Painting
John Tyley's Breadfruit Painting

This year, 8-13-year-olds are tasked with creating a portrait of themselves alongside a plant that is special to them or that lives nearby, inspired by the work of John Tyley, an artist living in the Caribbean in the late 1700s. The Linnean Society recently acquired a painting produced by John Tyley of a breadfruit tree which has inspired this year's edition of the competition.

The painting is special for many reasons, but particularly because it highlights the provocative nature of John Tyley, a freed slave who was emboldened in this painting to include the image of an enslaved man relaxing beneath the breadfruit tree, a plant that was brought into the Caribbean for the purpose of feeding enslaved people. The image has a deeply rebellious connotation, despite capturing such a peaceful moment in the shade.

What we know about John Tyley is limited, but we do know that he was associated with Alexander Anderson, a Scottish surgeon and botanist, and superintendent of the Botanic Garden on the Caribbean island of St Vincent. It appears that Anderson highly praised the work of John Tyley and included several drawings of Tyley's artworks in his publication, 'Hortus Sti. Vincentii Tabulae', which shows 148 beautiful watercolour depictions of plants from the Botanic Garden.

With this competition, we hope that young people can be guided to think deeply about their own relationships with the plants around them. Plants that they may walk past every day, plants that are towering over them, or that they crunch underfoot. Plants that feed them, clothe them or provide structure. The artwork produced this year will focus on the role that plants play in our lives and how individual species, or even individual plants, may be particularly special to us.

Click here to visit the dedicated competition web-page.

The competition is for 8-13-year-olds, anywhere in the world. The artwork must in a portrait orientation and must be signed by the artist. The featured plant can be in any size and position, as can the self-portrait.

The closing date is 15th November 2021.