Ocean Flowers: Impressions from Nature in the Victorian Era

Saturday, June 12, 2004
Sunday, August 8, 2004

This landmark exhibition was the first to consider the early history of photography specifically in the light of botany. British botanical illustrators were among the first to recognize the potential of photography to enhance their other activities: gathering and cataloguing plant specimens, creating exact and complex drawings, and exploring new printing techniques. Ocean Flowers included rarely seen hand-colored prints, “natural illustrations” (real plant specimens), “nature prints” (images directly imprinted from the plants themselves), “photogenic drawings” (early, camera-less photographs), and a collection of remarkable photograms made between 1843 and 1853 by the pioneer photographer Anna Atkins. The exhibition also presented works by other early photographers, both professional and amateur, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Sir John Herschel, Henry Bradbury, and Catherine Wills. Through the remarkable work of Atkins and her contemporaries, Ocean Flowers provided a fascinating glimpse of the interaction of the Victorian mind, the natural world, and the new photographic technology that transformed vision forever.

Edmund A. Crouch, detail of plate 2 from Groups of Shells, Drawn on Stone from Nature (Somers Town, 1824), hand colored lithograph, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Ocean Flowers
was organized by the Drawing Center in association with the Center. The exhibition was co-curated by Carol Armstrong, Doris Stevens Professor of Women’s Studies, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, and Catherine de Zegher, Director, The Drawing Center, New York.


The Drawing Center, New York:
March 25–May 22, 2004

Yale Center for British Art:
June 12–August 8, 2004