"Journey with Catesby"
by Paula Dabbs
Take a journey with Mark Catesby, artist, explorer, scientist, and pioneer. In celebration of the 300th anniversary of his arrival in North America, Wilton House Museum is presenting "Designed to Perfection: Mark Catesby's Natural History" until February 3, 2013. Link to Wilton House here
Mark Catesby (1683-1749) was not trained as an artist, but was a naturalist who first came to Virginia in 1712 and spent the next seven years studying and painting the native flora and fauna of British North America. To accomplish his goals, Catesby carried equipment and drawing materials with him into the wild. He returned to England with his collection of plants and seeds, as well as his illustrations, which brought him to the attention of the Royal Society and Sir Hans Sloane, later the founder of the British Museum. With new patrons, Catesby returned to America and continued to document the plants and animals of the Carolinas, Florida and Bahama Islands.
His works from Natural History make up the the current show at Wilton House. Catesby's illustrations were notable for his time, as he was the first to depict plants, animals, birds, reptiles or fish together as they would appear in nature. He set a precedent for other artists, notably the great American naturalist John James Audubon, who gave credit to Catesby for influencing his work. His work lives on today as artists, botanists, historians, and conservationists continue to explore his landscapes and lasting legacy.
"Mr. Catesby, a Gentleman . . . well skill'd in Natural history who designs and paints in water colours to perfection." ~ William Sherard to Dr. Richard Richardson, November 20, 1720
Note: Wilton House Museum is located at 215 South Wilton Road, Richmond Virginia. It is open Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:30. Admission is $10.00 or $8.00 for Seniors or AAA Members.
Personal note: Catesby's work is Beautiful and worth seeing! I especially enjoyed meeting William Strollo, the Director of Education and Public Relations who was very knowledgeable about Catesby. He said he is working on a show of Audubon's work for later this year. However, the display space at Wilton is limited and some of the art is difficult to see, as it is hung too high in the upstairs landing - just my humble opinion!