Spiders, snails, beetles, butterflies, moths and frogs are just some of the living creatures painted amongst the flowers in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s botanical paintings and drawings. This exhibition draws from the Museum’s outstanding collection of works from the Henry Rogers Broughton bequest, showing artists from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
An Anglo-American, Henry Rogers Broughton, 2nd Lord Fairhaven (1900-73) was recognised as one of the foremost collectors of flower paintings, drawings and watercolours in the world. His gift, and then bequest of over 100 oil paintings, around 900 works on paper, 38 albums and many boxes and miniatures both during his lifetime and upon his death transformed the Museum’s collection.
Complemented by paintings from the wider collection and impressive specimens from the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, this exhibition includes superb watercolours by the intrepid 17th-century German artist-naturalist, Maria Sibylla Merian and her tutor Jacob Marrel, as well as works by the Dutch artist Jan van Huysum, Jan van Kessel and members of the Dietzsch family. These are accompanied by studies of plants designed to attract insects through mimicry or putrid smells to aid pollination, and Georg Dionysius Ehret’s records of carnivorous plants that highlight the mutually beneficial relationship between flora and fauna.