Thursday, July 31, 2008

Maria Sibylla Merian and Daughters – Women of Art and Science

We highly recommend a visit the The Getty in Los Angeles to see the wonderful exhibit of works by Maria Sibylla Merian and her daughters.

A large exhibition of many incredible, original watercolors and bound books is on display through the end of August. Many pieces are on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, Stadel Museum in Frankfurt and others that combine into some of the best examples of Merian’s work we have ever seen! One of the highlights is the original watercolor for Spring Flowers in a Chinese Vase from Merian’s New Book of Flowers (shown below). The intricate detail and imaginative composition are hallmarks of Merian’s style of painting. This particular book served as a model book for artists, embroiderers on silk and cabinetmakers of the time. This was why Merian chose not to overlap any of the flowers in this publication so the whole flower could be used and studied.

For more information on botanical watercolors, watercolor transfers and hand-colored engravings by Merian in the Arader Galleries collection, please visit or call 415-788-5115.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One of the earliest publications on the flora and fauna of North America

Kingfisher by Catesby
Hermit Crab by Catesby

Arader Galleries is pleased to offer a selection of first edition, hand-colored copperplate engravings from Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina , Florida and the Bahama Islands . The first edition was printed between 1731 -1743 in London , and contains 220 plates published in two volumes, which depict birds, reptiles, fish, insects and mammals. The first volume was printed in 1731, and the second was printed in 1743. It is the first natural history book to use folio-sized color plates, and the first pictorial account of the f
lora and fauna of North America.

In 1712 the English born artist and naturalist embarked on a series of explorations to the southern colonies of British North America. Enthralled by the wildlife, he spent years traveling by foot through parts of present day Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas and Bahamas. He encountered and documented uncountable varieties of animal and plant life that where entirely unknown to Europeans. These travels would become the basis for Catesby’s breathtaking book.

The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Island
is one of the most sweeping, complete and unique natural history study ever created. It is considered a crowning achievement of 18th century art and science. This work was completed at the same time Linnaeus was working on his Systema Naturae, and used Catesby’s work as the basis of his system of binomial nomenclature for American species.
When Catesby returned to England in 1726 he was unable to afford the expense of having his drawings engraved professionally so he taught himself. He also carefully monitored the coloring either painting the impressions himself, or closely supervising the colorist to insure its fidelity to the original studies.The book provided an important model for later artists including Audubon and Alexander Wilson, who followed in Catesby’s footsteps a century later. His pioneering attempts to describe and portray birds accurately, life-sized and in botanical settings set him apart from his contemporaries.

The first edition of Mark Catesby’s book was printed on imperial folio sized hand-laid papers (approximately 14-1/2 x 20-1/2 inches) with various plate mark dimensions (approximately 9-5/8 x 13-3/8 to at least 10-1/4 x 13-7/8 inches). Chain lines on the paper appear to be uniformly spaced at 1 inch. Two Watermarks identify the first edition of Catesby prints from later editions. The first is the “Strausburg Lilly” over the initials “LVG”, representing the Dutchman Lubertus van Gerre-vink. This is also the same paper in which many of his original drawings are mounted on. A second Watermark found in the first edition is the “IHS” over “I. VILLEDARY”, representing the Jesuits and the Jean Villedary.

Be sure to view our collection of Catesby and other natural history artists such as Audubon, Barraband and Gould at our San Francisco Jackson Square location at 435 Jackson St., or online at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Early photographs of California

Thomas Wells "Sonora, California"

"Giant Sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees Grove"

"Calaveras Big Tree Grove Hotel"

The albumen print, also called albumen silver print, was invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the century, with a peak in 1860-90. This new medium was quickly adopted to show the natural beauty of places such as Yosemite National Park, and rapidly growing urban areas, such as San Francisco.

And, many advances to photography in the United States occurred in Northern California. In 1897, Arthur G. Pillsbury, a student at Stanford University, invented the circuit panorama camera. He used this revolutionary camera to record the gold rush in the Yukon and the San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire of 1906. He would later invent the first time-lapse camera in 1912 to demonstrate the growth of plants.
One of the most important moments of photographic history also happened in the San Francisco bay area. In 1872, Leland Stanford, a businessman, race-horse owner and former California governor, had taken a position on a popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with this assertion that they did, called “unsupported transit,” and decided to find scientific proof to back his theory. Stanford hired the San Francisco photograph Eadweard Muybridge to settle the issue. To prove Stanford’s claim, Muybridge worked with John D. Isaacs, the chief engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, to develop a scheme for instantaneous motion picture capture. In 1878, Muybridge successfully photographed a horse in fast motion to prove Stanford’s claim using a series of 24 cameras. This series of photographs, taken at what is now Stanford University, is called “The Horse in Motion,” and is one of the most popular images in history.

These late 19th century photographs are currently on display at Arader Galleries location in Jackson Square, San Francisco (435 Jackson St.). You can find out more about the gallery at or by calling 415-788-5115.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Charming 18th Century Painting of Birds

Christopher Huet (French, 1694-1759)
"Ruffs in a Landscape"
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 20 1/2” x 17 3/8”
Literature: Christine E. Jackson, Bird Painting - The Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1994), p. 76

Christopher Huet’s informal and intimate painting places male and female specimens of the species Philomachus pugnax in their natural habitat of marshy wetlands. The bird was first introduced to the English in 1586 when an anonymous writer published an attack upon the large frilly lace ruffs currently the fashion among Elizabethan men and woman. He scornfully likened these extravagant collars to the ruff worn around the neck of the male ruff bird when in breeding plummage.

Huet’s charming painting was most probably designed to appeal to members of the French aristocracy among whom he found continued employment. He specialized in the depiction of natural history subjects as well the interior decoration of houses. His skills were such that his name can be found along side that of Watteau in the account books of the Prince de Conde documenting work completed at the family castle in 1741.

This elegant painting is currently on display at Arader Galleries (435 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA). Please call 415.788.5115 with any questions.