Coveting Nature: Art, Collecting, and Natural History in Early Modern Europe

Thursday, Aug 31 – Dec 22, 2017 6 – 8 pm

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College of Fine and Applied Arts
500 E Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820

Exhibition on view: August 31-December 22, 2017

Opening reception: Thursday, August 31, 6pm

Coveting Nature explores the ways in which botanists and entomologists worked in tandem with artists and illustrators in the early modern period (1500–1800) to record and disseminate knowledge. The field of natural history owes much to this era’s tradition of assembling cabinets of curiosity in which natural specimens were collected alongside objects with geologic, ethnographic, and artistic significance. Also during this period, the refinement of printed images revolutionized the observational sciences. Increasingly sophisticated woodcuts and engravings, which could be augmented with hand coloring, largely superseded hand-drawn images, crude woodcuts, and unillustrated textual descriptions in scientific publications, and also appealed to artists and art lovers. These refined images were made by professional printmakers as well as by author-illustrators who engraved the plates for their own publications. Coveting Nature also highlights the early and significant contributions and enduring legacy of female artists and naturalists, including Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), Anna Ruysch (1666–1754), and Elizabeth Blackwell (1707–1758).

Curators: Anna Chen, Williams Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California Los Angeles, and Maureen Warren, Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois

Image: Anna Ruysch, Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Stone Table Ledge (detail), ca. 1690s. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase through the John Needles Chester Fund and the Richard M. and Rosann B. Gelvin Noel Krannert Art Museum Fund.