A work of stunning beauty, Ocean Flowers explores a little-known moment of exhilarating artistic experimentation. The book focuses on natural-history imagery in the mid-nineteenth century, with particular emphasis on botanical drawings and photograms by the artist Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and her Victorian contemporaries.
Besides providing a feast for the eyes, the book illuminates intriguing shifts in the way the natural world was represented. In the mid 1800s, the advent of photography provided new possibilities, generating as much creative fervor as digital media have in recent years. In addition to hand-made drawings, hand-colored prints, nature prints (direct imprints from plants), and natural illustrations (real specimens mounted on the page), artists began making photogenic drawings (as William Henry Fox Talbot first dubbed his early photographs) to record botanical specimens. A kind of "drawing with light," this new art form complemented, rather than superceded, the other forms of graphic media. Far from rendering conventional approaches obsolete, it encouraged experimentation with all kinds of media.
Ocean Flowers demonstrates how this concept of "fluidity" in crossing the traditional borders between media is paralleled in the contemporary art world. Replete with 200 color illustrations, the book accompanies an exhibition of the same name organized by the Drawing Center in New York City in association with the Yale Center for British Art. More than just an exhibition catalog, it includes essays by the coeditors, as well as by the artist Craigie Horsfield and scholars Edward Eigen, Elaine Scarry, and Kathryn Tuma.
http://www.drawingcenter.org/exhibitions.htm The Drawing Center
New York, New York
March 25-May 22, 2004
http://www.yale.edu/ycba/index.htm The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
June 12-August 8, 2004