Botanical Drawing Students

Botanical drawing 17 May – 31 May  2013

Open Monday – Friday 9.30-8.30pm

Saturday 9.30-3.30pm (term time only)


Artists: Elizabeth Barnes, Claudia Colia, Judith Cook, Ann Fusi,  Clare Gerrard, Silvia Acost-Palmer, Alison Freefard, Marysia Kratimenos, Keren Mc Connell,  Kate Squire, Jenny Stokes, Yi Ynin Tsao, Elizabeth Young.  

In the 17thc before the advent of photography, observation recording and learning about science through nature, was done via drawings, often of exacting and elaborate detail.  Originally for the propose of identifying plants and gathering knowledge botanical drawing at working men’s college was a firmly established part of the curriculum in the 1800’s, along with Bible study, discussions on issues of empire, politics and social reform and accompanying vocational skills. between 1750 and 1850 –on its origins and the pre-classical era; on ancient herbals and the Renaissance period, featuring Leonardo da Vinci; on Dutch and German painters, including Dürer, and work by American artists Catesby and Bartram from the early 18th century, as well as Linnaeus, the plant classifier, and a host of explorers and travellers. Many of the 250 images, from the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, have rarely or never been seen before.

Camden-20130517-00233 Camden-20130517-00230

Botanic art’s golden age was heralded by global explorations of Russia, India, China, South America, Japan and Australia by individuals like Sir Joseph Banks, Franz Bauer and Francis Masson who depicted their bounty of new found lands, like Strelitzia reginae by Bauer, in those days they must have seemed as exotic as a bird of paradise.

Botanical drawing has enjoyed a return to fashion in coffee table books, lifestyle supplements and areas of fine art – a nostalgia for looking and not snapping point and shoot style along with a romance for nature. Today’s renaissance in botanical drawing does not have the same function as in the past, now it’s about preserving cultural values; of slowness, gardens, Englishness, the hand tended and picked.

Our Botanical Drawing course was inspired by Working Men’s College’s historical connections with artists such as Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Morris and in particular, John Ruskin. The study of natural forms and traditional methods were once the core of art lessons in the college’s early years. Ben Senoir the course’s tutor – has his own artist interest in historical and traditional methods of drawing and painting. As such,sessions often include painting in the ancient technique of egg tempera and discussions of the work of past ‘Old Masters’ such as Chardin, Caravaggio and Zurbaran. Today it is also focus for contemporary debate as our concern for the environment and fragility of plants is critical in the context of post industrial society and global warming.

Open to all levels – students join the course to improve their objective skills of observation and their techniques of painting and drawing. Students have used the course to enhance their  professional practice as well as their own leisure interests.

Camden-20130517-00236 Camden-20130517-00237

About ruskingallery

The Ruskin Gallery is located at the Working Men's College in Camden. Ruskin Gallery is a contemporary gallery located in the historic building of Working Men’s College in Camden. In addition to providing students the opportunity to show at a professional level, the exhibition programme at Ruskin Gallery involves inviting external artists for site specific projects. The Ruskin Gallery is run by curator Esther Windsor, who is a curator, artist and writer living and working in London. Working Men’s College (WMC), the oldest surviving adult education institute in Europe, was founded in 1854 and was associated with the Cooperative Movement and the Christian Socialists, stemming, from the same tradition that led later to the Worker’s Educational Association. The Working Women’s College, founded 10 years later in 1864, finally merged with WMC in 1967. Early supporters of both have included F D Maurice, John Stuart Mill, Tom Hughes, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, Ford Maddox Brown, Walter de la Mare and Octavia Hill. Originally based in Red Lion Street, we have been in this listed building in Camden Town since 1905. We have continued to develop the tradition of liberal education and today the College serves the whole community, with women, unemployed and refugee students forming the majority of the student body. We have grown rapidly in recent years but are still small enough to know all our students and to respond to their individual needs. WMC was designated as a Specialist Designated Institution (SDI) under the 1992 Further Education Act.