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Botanical Printing Artful Collaborations on Paper and Cloth
by Leonore Alaniz


Saturday October 20, 2012 through Sunday, February 10, 2013

Church Exhibition Gallery, Lyman Plant House

Nature Printing is a method of applying ink or dye to an object and imprinting its image onto paper, cloth, clay, or other surfaces. The process captures the detail and appeal of an insect, fish, feather, shell, rock, plant or the human body. Botanical printing specifically uses plants.

Before cameras and copiers, botanical hand illustration along with engraving was invaluable for recording the likenesses of plants. Leonardo da Vinci's writings in Codex Atlanticus, estimated to be from 1508, described the process of imprinting a leaf. With this knowledge botanical printing emerged in Renaissance Europe in response to the need to produce illustrations of herbs and medicinal plants. Subsequently, field botanists created volumes of imprints, some of which they hand colored. Introduced to the American colonies during the 1700s, botanical printing was adapted by Benjamin Franklin to print paper currency that could not be counterfeited. Printing methods developed during the Industrial Revolution eventually eclipsed the old tedious way of directly imprinting plant material, but not its aesthetic appeal. Foliage, in particular, became a key design element in mass produced fabrics, carpets, wallpaper, and furniture.

In this exhibition, botany and art merge seamlessly, and we are inspired by the impression plants make on us.

Smith College