Opening Saturday in the UCSF Alumni House on Parnassus Ave., a brilliant exhibit marks the 10th anniversary of the Mary L. Harden School of Botanical Illustration. Harden brings four decades of experience to the teaching of illustrations that are both scientifically accurate and artistically appealing.
The show is comprised of 43 works by Harden’s students, with prices ranging from $250 to $2,500. Admission to the exhibit is free, but appointments are to be made by calling 415-476-4723.
The wide range of subjects includes Ameryllis (by Wylie Greig), Orchid Caetus (Mary Ann Ho), Pacific Rhododendron (Isabel Wade), Romanesque Cauliflower (Anne Seeman), Nasturtium (Cathleen O’Brien), Scarlet Firethorn (Harden), and Beet (Lillian Murphy). A watercolor of special interest is Catherine Dellor’s Iris “King’s Ransom.” It is among the best examples of realizing Harden’s vision of “going beyond ‘pretty flowers,’ and show the process of the plant’s life from birth to death.”
Dellor describes the painting as “something bold with its rich deep color, its large intricate flower, the twisted senescing blooms, strong vertical leaves and the bulbous hairy rhizome.” The plant itself is unusual and comes from Alcatraz, where the Alcatraz Florilegium project is a collaboration between the Northern California Chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Garden Conservancy. The project, says Dellor, aims to paint and illustrate survivor plants on the island. Iris “King’s Ransom” is one of 78 completed so far.
“There have been several specimen collection opportunities during each of the project’s two years,” Dellor says, “with one more year to go. The conservancies can only use prints in the Florilegium as they have no facility for storing original watercolor art work and size is limited to 11” x 14”. I never paint this small as I usually want to tell the whole story of the plant if I can and this would not fit that small format. So, at Mary’s urging, I painted a half sheet watercolor (or 17” x 22”), keeping in mind the exact part of the painting to be excerpted for the project.
“I was lucky to be given the whole plant rather than just a cutting during my collection trip so I knew I had to include the root as part of the piece. Most of the pieces in the project are small cuttings of one or a few stems, and I wanted something more complete and dramatic.”
Sixteen works have been purchased by the UCSF Regents’ Permanent Collection for the new Mission Bay Hospitals, with commission to the UCSF Faculty Alumni House, which has been presenting these exhibits.