The shirley sherwood collection of botanical art

A new and exceptional botanical art website went online last November. The Shirley Sherwood Collection includes more than 1,000 works of botanical art that have been acquired by Dr. Sherwood over the past thirty years. Some 300 contemporary artists from 36 countries are represented in her collection.

In 2008, Kew Gardens opened the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, the world’s first and only gallery dedicated solely to botanical art. The gallery houses Kew’s 200,000 works of botanical art as well as Dr. Sherwood’s collection. Since its opening, some 50 exhibitions have been held in the gallery.

In this brief video from 2018, Dr. Sherwood gives a brief tour of the gallery.

The Facebook page for the Shirley Sherwood Collection presents several brief videos of individual botanical works from the collection with commentary by Dr. Sherwood.

On the Collection’s website is a biographical page for each artist with links to their websites, a biography of Dr. Sherwood, and a sampling of photos from past exhibits. Many works from Dr. Sherwood’s collection are included in several publications that she has authored or co-authored. These magnificent books can be seen and purchased on the site.

For the faint-of-heart among us who would be reluctant to fly overseas to see this collection, the new website is a gift from the digital heavens. It is a gorgeous site with the viewing size of each work sufficiently large to see all the marvelous details. (If you’re using a phone to view the site, find a bigger screen.)

The variety of plants depicted in the collection is astounding. Alas, the site doesn’t yet have an index of plants, and the search box results are disappointingly incomplete. In order to see which plants are in the collection, you must spend some very enjoyable time exploring each artist’s entry. If persistent, you’ll find several works of cacti, aloes, and other succulents. One such work is by Tucson artist Joan McGann (Desert Breeze September 2017), who has the honor of having her highly detailed pen and ink study of the crested saguaro included in the Collection.

Saguaros are few and far between in contemporary botanical art, and a crested saguaro is rare indeed. The illustration shown here is a woodcut by Albert Blanc that was included in his 1891 plant catalog, Hints on Cacti. The accompanying article recounted his efforts to harvest the top of a crested saguaro.

Many thanks to Susan Ashton, secretary of the Southwest Society of Botanical Artists and frequent contributor of illustrations in the Desert Breeze, for directing SWSBA chapter members to this remarkable new online —Cindy Hartwell

This article appeared in the June 2021 issue of the Desert Breeze, the monthly newsletter of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society.