Flower Power: Museum of Art opens new exhibition of work by two exceptional botanical artists

"Nodding Trillium, Trillium Cernuum," watercolor by Kate Furbish, American, 1834–1931. Courtesy the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library.

“Nodding Trillium, Trillium Cernuum,” watercolor by Kate Furbish, American, 1834–1931. Courtesy the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library.

On October 4, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art opens Kate Furbish and Edwin Hale Lincoln: New England Botanical Studies, a collaboration with the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives at the Bowdoin College Library, the New York Public Library, and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The exhibition celebrates the work of two exceptional artists, Kate Furbish (1834–1931) and Edwin Hale Lincoln (1848–1938), each of whom devoted extended study to documenting the wild flowers of New England. Furbish and Lincoln were fascinated by plant identification and distribution, and both recognized the need for a visual record of New England’s flora. Each created a vast pictorial archive of their research. Furbish’s chosen medium was graphite and watercolor, while Lincoln’s was photography. Although their lives and work did not intersect, they pictured many of the same species, and their projects were motivated by a similar ambition to create, as Lincoln once declared, a “permanent authentic record” of the native flowers of this region.

"Nodding Trillium, platinum print," by Edwin Hale Lincoln, American, 1848–1938. Gift of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper in Memory of Courtlandt Palmer, Sr. in 1912 to the Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

“Nodding Trillium, platinum print,” by Edwin Hale Lincoln, American, 1848–1938. Gift of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper in Memory of Courtlandt Palmer, Sr. in 1912 to the Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

The flora of New England has inspired study for centuries. While the earliest botanical drawings in the Americas date back more than 300 years, natural history as a discipline developed significantly during the nineteenth century. The founding of organizations such as the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1829 and the Portland Society of Natural History in 1843 and the concurrent establishment of academic programs in the natural sciences expanded both scientific knowledge of and general appreciation for New England’s diverse botanical world.

This exhibition features thirty works by each artist. Here at the Museum we have enjoyed working on this project with our colleagues at the Bowdoin College Library. In addition, we want to thank curators at the New York Public Library for a generous loan of photographs by Lincoln and experts at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for assistance with plant identifications. Please join us on October 25 for a special tour of the exhibition with Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Museum, and Kat Stefko, the director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College.

 

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