Kansas City, MO
By stopping the constant flow of life, the still life allows both artist and viewer to observe closely the details of natural and crafted forms.
Still lifes adorn the walls of Egyptian tombs, Roman villas, royal palaces and modern homes. Some convey symbolic meaning, some document wealth and status and others simply present the objects with which we live.
The 19th century saw a growing interest in botanical illustration, informed by global travel and scientific exploration. In England, the botanist Robert James Thornton produced perhaps the most lavish and beautiful book ever published of floral illustration, The Temple of Flora. Floral still life would remain of crucial interest throughout the century, being favored by the Impressionists and, above all, by Edouard Manet.
The still life was a favored subject for 20th-century artists. Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall evoked joyful domesticity with their depictions of flowers and fruits. At the same time, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque upended the notion that a still life must be still.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, The Temple of Flora : Robert John Thornton is a complete reprint of all color plates from Robert John Thornton's monumental work, first published in London in 1799. Presented in a boxed set, with 35 loose-leaf Elephant folio-sized color prints as well as a booklet including an introduction and the original texts of the 31 botanical plates. Today, Thornton`s large-format plates with their allegorical depictions and stunning floral portraits number among supreme achievements of botanical illustration. Thornton engaged the most renowned flower painters of his age and spared no cost in the creation of this unique work.
The year 1799 witnessed the first installment of a work that has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable books of botanical plates ever published. Two centuries have passed since the publication of Robert John Thornton's The Temple of Flora, but its charm remains unsullied today. Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768 1837) passionately devoted himself to botany, a study that had only a few decades earlier established itself as a modern science through Carl Linnaeus`s revolutionary new system of botanic classification based on the structure of blossoms. Thornton greatly honored the ingenious Swedish scientist and wished his own prodigious undertaking to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist.
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