Flowers from the Royal Gardens of Kew: Two Centuries of Curtis's Botanical Magazine
13 October – 16 December 1988
Organized to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Curtis's Botanical Magazine, one of the oldest horticultural publications in the world, this exhibition featured over 70 watercolors that had rarely been seen by the general public. From its founding in 1787, the editors of Curtis's Botanical Magazine demonstrated a strong commitment to beauty and to scientific accuracy, employing some of the most renowned botanical artists in the world to create master drawings for the engravings and lithographs that illustrated the journal. Until 1948 every color illustration in every copy of the magazine was carefully colored by hand. The works in this exhibition ranged in date from the 18th to the 20th centuries and had been selected from the Royal Botanic Gardens' collection of more than 10,000 sheets. One of the key elements in the magazine's remarkable longevity was the attraction of seeing on its pages, often for the first time, scores of flowering plants capable of being cultivated in the reader's own garden or greenhouse.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine introduced botanists, nurseymen, landscape architects and gardeners throughout the world to the discoveries of the great botanical explorations originating from Kew, the Royal Horticultural Society and the leading nurseries of England. In its day the magazine faithfully reported the activities of such acclaimed plant hunters as Joseph Banks of the Cook Expedition, David Nelson of HMS Bounty fame, David Douglas for whom the Douglas Fir was named, and the father-and-son team of William and Joseph Hooker, who together directed the activities of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for over 80 years. After its showing at the Institute, the exhibition traveled to the Smithsonian Institution, The New York Public Library, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Chicago Botanic Garden.