Exhibition features plants of the Society Islands

KALAHEO — National Tropical Botanical Garden has announced that it will open a special art exhibition in its Botanical Research Center. “Plants of the Society Islands” will offer the rare chance to see 24 exemplary 18th century prints depicting plants of this French Polynesian archipelago.

This public exhibition at NTBG’s headquarters campus in Kalaheo kicks off on March 21 with the first of three Saturday offerings; subsequent Saturday dates are April 11 and May 16. The exhibition will be open most weekdays starting Monday, March 23, and continuing through Friday, May 22. Viewing times are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. NTBG recommends visiting its exhibition webpage at http://ntbg.org/art and calling (808) 332-7324, ext. 227 for additional viewing information.

These extraordinary prints are part of a larger collection known as Banks’ Florilegium which is based on tropical plants collected during the 1768-1771 voyage of the HMS Endeavour. Part of the expedition brought the ship’s crew to Tahiti in the Society Islands where they hoped to map the 1769 transit of Venus. On board was Sir Joseph Banks, an English naturalist, botanist, and patron of the natural sciences. In the Society Islands and other expedition stops, Banks collected a remarkable number of plants which he brought onto the ship for botanical illustrator and natural history artist Sydney Parkinson to draw.

“This is a rare opportunity to see artwork from James Cook’s first voyage around the world over 200 years ago,” said Tim Flynn, NTBG’s Herbarium Collections Manager and one of the curators of the exhibition.

Made from copperplate engravings, these legendary prints are one of only one hundred complete sets ever made for sale when the engravings were retrieved from storage at the British Museum over 200 years after the voyage.

Characterized as “the marriage of art and science,” the works have been praised for their fine workmanship, technical details, and simple beauty. The prints open a window into the past, giving viewers a direct glimpse of the natural world that 18th century European explorers encountered in islands of the South Pacific.

The Juliet Rice Wichman Botanical Research Center holds NTBG’s extensive research library and 72,000+ dried plant specimens. In addition to the prints, visitors will have the opportunity to browse among the stacks and see plant specimens that may no longer exist in the wild.

Additionally, works by students participating in NTBG’s 2015 botanical illustration workshop will be available for viewing. Artist/instructor Wendy Hollender says her students, who range from beginners to advanced, bring the centuries-old tradition to life. “The drawings my students are showing prove that botanical illustration is very much alive and well today,” Hollender said.


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