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William

Curtis

The 18th century saw an intersection of science and art, especially where it came to botanicals. Artists who had formerly devoted their practice to unique oil paintings of flowers now engaged the media of illustration, as an interest in cataloging flora grew and subscription publications began to thrive. Scientists also crossed the divide, delving into etching, and curating artists and works for issues of botanical magazines. William Curtis was one such botanist. For 13 volumes, Curtis engaged the artistic expertise of dozens of botanical artists to illustrate published guides on plants, beginning in 1787. The hundreds of hand-etched, hand-colored plates are actually unattributed, meaning we don’t see a particular artists’ name or signature, though we know that William Curtis commissioned and curated them. These handmade prints are now treated as individual, collectible works in themselves.