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Saturday 21 April - Sunday 6 May, 10 am - 4 pm daily

Botanica Art Exhibition: Symbiosis

Australia’s leading contemporary botanical art exhibition Botanica has returned to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, exploring the complex and remarkable relationship we humans have with plants. The annual showcase, now in its 19th year, features work by some of the best Australian and international established and emerging botanic and natural history artists, Botanica is considered one of the foremost exhibitions of its kind.

The 2018 theme for Botanica is 'symbiosis'. Artists have been invited to study the symbiotic relationships some plants have with other plants and animals, and incorporate this into their artworks. 

Botanica is a beautiful art exhibition and encourages the sale of all its artworks. Proceeds from the sale of original and limited-edition prints go to the artists and to Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens, helping the not-for-profit organisation to continue to support horticulture, conservation, scientific research and education programs within your Botanic Gardens.

This is a must see exhibition - Don't miss out!


Saturday 21 April - Sunday 6 May, 10 am - 4 pm daily


Free entry


Lion Gate Lodge Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney


Public transport recommended. Limited parking available

Exhibiting Artists

Amanda Ahmed, Beverly Allen, Tane Andrews, Janette Barlow, Samantha Bayly, Shannon Bellamy, Sylvia Beresford, Samantha Blanks, Esther Bolz, Linda Catchlove, Stephanie Chambers, Yvonne Chan, Glenys Clarey, Barbara Davison, Pauline Dewar, Rosemary Donnelly, Roslyn Earp, Judith Edmonds, Melinda Edstein, Alison Ellis, Helen Fitzgerald, Ros Franklin, Anne Hayes, Cheryl Hodges, Tanya Hoolihan, Annie Hughes, Kerriann Indorato, Jillian Lloyd, Angela Lober, Marina Lommerse, Anna Lu, Janet Matthews, Lynda McPherson, Mary Ann Mein, Peter Mesenberg, Mali Moir, Elaine Musgrave, Julie Nettleton, Kate Nolan, Leonie Norton, John Pastoriza-Piñol, Joy Pearson, Vivien Pinder, Patricia Prince, Lauren Sahu-Khan, Sandra Sanger, Anne Saville, Peter Schouten, Shipra Shah, Claire Stack, Sue Stuart, Heather Trott, Olivia Unicomb, Bronwyn Van de Graaff, Anna Voytsekhovich, Christine Weldon, Colleen Werner, Sue Wickison and Sue Wilcockson.

History of Botanica

Meet the Curator
Judy Dunstan is a Foundation & Friends volunteer and has been our Botanica Art Exhibition Curator for six years. She brings a wealth of experience, and over the years has broadened Botanica’s scope to include pollinators and other small insects.

In explaining how the artwork is selected and what the criteria is, she says “it’s selected by a small committee with experience in botanic art and horticulture, backed up by Botanic Garden staff who check that all details in the artwork including form, colour and descriptions are scientifically correct. However, since this is an art exhibition, we also look for pleasing, balanced compositions. Something you would be very happy to put on your wall.”

We are pleased to announce that "The selection period has commenced and all artists have been notified of the result. We were delighted by the quality of submissions this year and are excited about the artwork that will be displayed in another wonderful Botanica exhibition"

History of Botanica: 1998 - 2000
It was through a significant volunteer effort that the annual Botanica Art Exhibition was born. The first curator, Margo Child, shared her thoughts about this time period with our current Botanica Curator Judy Dunstan in 2016: 

“Two landmark exhibitions were held in Sydney in 1998. The first, curated by Peter Watts and Jo Anne Pomfrett, An "Exquisite Eye" at the Museum of Sydney, exhibited Ferdinand Bauer’s paintings of Australian flora and fauna after his epic voyage on “the Investigator” with Matthew Flinders.These wonderfully detailed paintings had never been seen in Australia.

The second was Shirley Sherwood’s collection of contemporary botanical art at the S.H Ervin Gallery, brought to Sydney by the National Trust of Australia. I was present at the opening of this exhibition and heard Dr Sherwood speak about her enthusiasm for botanical art and her wide-ranging passion for plants generally. I was inspired to put to the Friends’ committee a proposal that we mount an exhibition based on the work of the artists who had already produced artwork for the Gardens, either through illustrations, posters or signage and were part of the Gardens family. Some of these artists had previously participated in the mixed exhibitions of art and craft organised by Elizabeth and Geoffrey Davis for the Friends and which had been very successful fund raising events. The Committee accepted my proposal and “Botanica the Art of the Plant “exhibition was held in 1999.

The original Botanica exhibitions also featured the work of one established craft artist who worked on a botanical theme. Beverly Allen and Elaine Musgrave who both had a keen interest in botanical art asked to show me their botanical paintings for consideration and were invited to exhibit.

It was then agreed by the Friends’ committee to mount an exhibition “Botanica 2000” in the Olympic year as this was a genre unique to the Sydney Gardens. Some of the artists on the staff assisted with the curatorial work involved. More artists were added to the list of exhibitors some of whom were illustrators of natural science books like Tricia Oktober, Kathy Harrington and Barbara Duckworth.

The success of both exhibitions was built on the reputations of the contributing artists, good publicity (free), the efforts of the volunteers who were both workers and buyers and the general enthusiasm for botanical art which was undergoing a renaissance at that time. As well, the discovery of the Wollemi pine had created much interest in newspapers. Professor Chambers was a keen supporter of the project from the beginning.

For the 2000 exhibition it was decided to stay with the title Botanica the Art of the Plant as we had invested time and energy into making it our own.  

I decided to write to Dr Sherwood inviting her to visit our exhibition as I wanted her to see the quality of work of our NSW artists. (I already knew she was familiar with the Victorian scene because Jenny Phillips was a teacher whose work was featured in the Sherwood collection.) She graciously responded and after a tour of the exhibition bought several paintings for her own collection.

Lesley Elkan had sent advance information about the exhibition to the US Botanical Art Society which in turn caught the eye of a collector and his collection now includes several paintings bought from different Botanica exhibitions including a group of 4 by Lesley of native plants which grew close to her home. I’m sure we both wish that they had stayed in Australia!

The Florilegium Society grew from the success of Botanica exhibitions. My personal feeling is that they should be open to paintings which conform to the genre of botanical art and are not constrained by a theme.”  

The History of Botanic Art
Botanical illustration goes back to early medical and culinary texts. You can imagine it was vital that the right plant was used both medicinally and in cooking and the very best way to describe it is by a drawing rather than a description. While there were no doubt earlier texts the oldest we know of is the Vienna Dioscurides dating from 512AD which uses illustrations based on drawings by the  Greek physician Crevatas with the text of an ancient Greek medical manuscript by Dioscorides both of whom lived in the first century BC. It was later translated into Latin as De Materia Medica and remained the authoritative reference on medicinal plants for over 1500 years.

From about the 14th century on improved technology such as the printing press made prints of works cheaper and more accessible to a wider audience. By the time of the Age of Exploration, loosely the 16th to 18th centuries, when European kingdoms were sending explorers all over the world looking for new countries, their products and markets and the prestige that came with that botanic art reached a new high. With so many exotic new plants, artists were occupied painting for wealthy individuals and collectors as well as for botanical publications and seed catalogues.

The latest renaissance of interest is in large part due to people such as Dr. Shirley Sherwood and institutions such as the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh who both started collecting botanic art and illustration in the middle of last century. Contemporary botanical art is distinguished from floral art in its botanic accuracy and begins with the careful study of plants. The subject is typically drawn against a blank backdrop to highlight the beauty of the plant without the visual distraction of nature. Botanic artists employ a great technical expertise creates in various mediums such as graphite, watercolor, colored pencil or pen and ink. 

Botanica Art Exhibitions

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