Eucalyptus macrocarpa by Marta Salamon (cropped)
The Art of Botanical Illustration biennial exhibition evolved from the Botanical Illustration classes after the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne recognised the exceptional talents of the botanical illustrators of Victoria and, in 1990, offered these artists a home at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
Anita Barley began the classes for these artists. She was an artist/illustrator at the National Herbarium for many years whilst teaching students in the 1980s at the Burnley Horticultural College. Jenny Phillips later taught at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and went on to set up her own botanical school of art. Celia Rosser, a highly accomplished artist, who ran a few workshops for this group, was on the selection committee for the first exhibitions. Margaret Stones, a Victorian who lived in London and was an illustrator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, gave some inspirational talks at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. At the time, these four women were recognised as Australia’s most accomplished scientific illustrators. Since 1990 many highly acclaimed artists have given their guidance and shared their expertise with accomplished professional and amateur artists through programs offered by the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
In 1992 the members of this group presented the first selected The Art of Botanical Illustration exhibition held at the National Herbarium of Victoria, with 140 illustrations by 30 artists on display. This was an opportunity to promote the talents of these artists and the role of botanical illustration as a key part of the scientific and horticultural identification processes. Since then the exhibition has been held biennially and now attracts Australian and international artists and collectors.
Many pieces have been purchased from these biennial exhibitions for inclusion in the State Botanical Collection, one of the world’s finest, which is held in the National Herbarium of Victoria. This exhibition has become one of the major fundraisers for the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
The inaugural presentation of the Celia Rosser Medal was in 2002. Celia Rosser’s exquisite work on the Banksia genus took her 25 years to complete, while she was the Botanical Artist at Monash University. The medal celebrates her contribution as a technically accomplished artist whose work has both the highest degree of scientific accuracy and artistic excellence. The medal has been named after her with the intention that the award should reflect these achievements.
The Friends’ Illustrated Garden Collection project was established in 2001, to create a florilegium of significant plants growing in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Works are chosen from those exhibited in The Art of Botanical Illustration exhibitions. The originals are not kept, but held digitally and photographically in a 21st century florilegium with reproduction rights assigned to the Friends for the purpose of raising funds for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.