Enfilade

Exhibition | ‘Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower’: Artists’ Books

Posted in books by Editor on May 24, 2014

2-Unknown_Basket

Unknown maker, Basket, ca. 1820, silk thread, cut paper, and watercolor,
(Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund)

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From the exhibition press release:

‘Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower’: Artists’ Books and the Natural World
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 15 May — 10 August 2014

Curated by Elisabeth Fairman

This spring, the Yale Center for British Art presents ‘Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower’: Artists’ Books and the Natural World, an exhibition examining the intersections of artistic and scientific interest in the natural world from the sixteenth century to the present. On view from May 15 through August 10, 2014, the exhibition explores depictions of Britain’s countryside and its native plant and animal life through more than two hundred objects drawn primarily from the Center’s collections, ranging from centuries-old manuscripts to contemporary artists’ books.

9780300204247The exhibition highlights the scientific pursuits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that resulted in the collecting and cataloging of the natural world. Also explored are the aesthetically oriented activities of self-taught naturalists during the Victorian era, particularly those of women who collected and drew specimens of butterflies, ferns, grasses, feathers, seaweed, and shells, and assembled them into albums and commonplace books. Examples of twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists’ books, including those of Eileen Hogan, Mandy Bonnell, Tracey Bush, John Dilnot, Sarah Morpeth, and Helen Douglas, broaden the vision of the natural world to incorporate its interaction with consumer culture and with modern technologies. Work by contemporary artists in the exhibition reveal a shared inspiration to record, interpret, and celebrate nature as in the work of their predecessors.

‘Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower’ features traditional bound books, drawings, and prints, as well as a range of more experimental media incorporating cut paper, wood, stone, natural specimens, sound, video, and interactive multimedia. Historical works are also on loan from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Lentz Collection at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, including examples of early microscopes used by natural historians.

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From Yale UP:

Elisabeth Fairman, ed., with essays by David Burnett, Molly Duggins, Elisabeth Fairman, and Robert McCracken Peck, Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower: Artists’ Books and the Natural World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 248 pages, ISBN: 978-0300204247, $70.

Highlighting an enduring interest in natural history from the 16th century to the present, this gorgeous book explores depictions of the natural world, from centuries-old manuscripts to contemporary artists’ books. It examines the scientific pursuits in the 18th and 19th centuries that resulted in the collecting and cataloguing of the natural world. It also investigates the aesthetically oriented activities of self-taught naturalists in the 19th century, who gathered flowers, ferns, seaweed, feathers, and other naturalia into albums. Examples of 20th- and 21st-century artists’ books, including those of Eileen Hogan, Mandy Bonnell, and Tracey Bush, broaden the vision of the natural world to incorporate its interaction with consumer culture and with modern technologies. Featuring dazzling illustrations, the book itself is designed by Miko McGinty to evoke a fieldwork notebook, and features a collection pocket and ribbon markers.

Elisabeth Fairman is senior curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Yale Center for British Art.

6b-Bolton_one-of-twenty-drawings

James Bolton, one of twenty drawings depicting specimens from the natural history cabinet of Anna Blackburne, ca. 1768, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, in honor of Jane and Richard C. Levin, President of Yale University (1993–2013).

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