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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Past Exhibitions

Fields of Grass: The Varied Uses of Grasses

12 November 1986 – 28 February 1987

Of all plants, grasses are by far the most important to man. Overlooked by many artists as a source of inspiration for paintings, grasses were depicted in this exhibition in a variety of techniques by a number of different artists from the 16th century to the present. Although selected primarily for their aesthetic appeal, these artworks included decorative as well as purely technical works. With their satisfying forms and their challenging details, grasses are ideal subjects for botanical art. Particularly noteworthy in the exhibition were original artworks by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (fl.1500s) and Francis Bauer (fl. early 1800s) and a number of watercolors by 19th-century Indian artists. Organized by the Institute and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, to complement the International Symposium on Grass Semantics and Evolution at the Smithsonian, where it was first shown, this exhibition then moved to the Institute, after which the majority of it was circulated to as many as 15 galleries by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

 The exhibition was guest-curated by James J. White (1941–2011; Hunt Institute Curator of Art, 1982–2010), who had been supervisor of the Herbarium Services Unit in the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution (1969–1978) before joining the Hunt Institute as assistant curator of art in 1978. A 16-page catalogue published by the Smithsonian accompanied the exhibition.