Design by Nature: A New Look at Antique Botanical Prints

Posted: 6/17/2015

Karl Blossfeldt


Design by Nature: 
A New Look at Antique Botanical Prints

Design by Nature presents natural history prints dating from 1671 to 1929 from a contemporary perspective. Some of the images trace connections between scientific illustration, and the design movements of Art Nouveau, and Art Moderne. Others simply delight the senses with clean lines and spare modern form.  Curator Aaron Casey, Gallery Associate states, “these prints examine the structure of beauty and elegant simplicity of natural forms.”

Nature is a noted designer. One could argue that the humble botanical print is an homage to her design, a study of the forms that delight the senses of man. The bloom of a flower attracts us like pollinating insects, but the beauty lives in the whole of the plant. Stems, leaves, and seed pods have much to reveal upon examination. Within nature is the inherent structure of beauty.

Floridanica Mushroom engraving


The selection of prints in this show represent the work of artists examining form at its genesis. The delicate and odd shapes of fungi and grasses in Northern Europe, seen in the etchings of Georg Christiana Oeder’s Floridanica, inspired a royal tea set.  (browse Floridanica engravings here...)






Constantin Von Ettingshausen found a way to directly translate nature’s delicate lines into print through the process of nature printing.  (see Ettingshausen biography)



 The egg, a symbol of life, celebrates its uniqueness in the work of Francis O. Morris.















Photographer and sculptor Karl Blossfeldt functions as nature’s curator, magnifying and revealing an encyclopedic collection of captivating forms in his photogravures.
(browse collection of Blossfeldt photogravures from Urformen der Kunst) 







Nature inspires us with her simplicity, her lines, and her infallible ability to amaze. Through the work of the artists collected here, I invite you to revel in form and delight in the bounty of shapes nature has designed for us. - Aaron Casey


The exhibit will provide a counterpoint to the French flower paintings on display concurrently at the Denver Art Museum’s summer spectacle: In BloomDesign by Nature encompasses images from variety of printing techniques including copper engraving, wood block printing, nature printing and photogravure.  On loan to the Denver Art Museum from the gallery for this show celebrating French flower painting are examples by Jean Louis Prevost and Pierre Joseph Redoute.                                       


Tam O’Neill Fine Arts is a Denver based and nationally recognized gallery specializing in antique prints.


Gallery hours: 
10am to 5:30pm, Monday through Saturday..or browse our inventory on line anytime!