Ehret, Georg Dionysius (1708-1770), Hyacinthus IV (Feu d'amour).

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EHRET, Georg Dionysius (1708-1770). Gloriosa Superba. Watercolor on vellum. (1762).

Hyacinthus IV (Feu d'amour)

Plate 14 from "Hortus Nitidissimis Omnbem per Annum Superbiens Floribus" by Christopher Jacob Trew. Engraved by Seligman. Published Nuremberg.

Ehret, the son of a market gardener, was born in Heidelburg, Germany in 1708. After the death of his father, Ehret was apprenticed to another gardener for three years and worked at a local castle, where he acquired the skills necessary for him to eventually obtain the position of chief gardener for the Elector of Heidelburg and the Margrave of Baden. Ehret's artistic interests developed during his time working for the Margrave, whose prize tulips and hyacinths provided inspiration for his first botanical sketches. Ehret also developed his skills by drawing medicinal plants for the local apothecary. In the early 1730s, Ehret left Germany and moved throughout Europe, making important friends and patrons who helped further his artistic career. He spent two years in France at the Jardin des Plantes, where he met the King's popular and celebrated painter Claude Aubriet. Ehret carefully studied Aubriet's work, and his observations inspired him to begin painting with opaque bodycolor pigments on both paper and vellum.

Among Ehret's other admirers were the Parisian naturalist Bernard de Jussieu and the famed Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, whom he met on his travels to Holland. Linnaeus's system of classification is still used in modern taxonomy, and Ehret's works are some of the first drawings to put Linnaeus's classification to use. Ehret and Linnaeus's shared botanical interest sparked a great friendship, and the two worked together to produce Hortus cliffortianus in 1738, a milestone in early botanical literature. Dr. Christoph Trew, a wealthy Nuremburg physician and celebrated natural history enthusiast, was also one of Ehret's closest friends and principal benefactors. Trew became Ehret's greatest patron and most notable collaborator. From 1750 until Ehret's death in 1770, Ehret and Trew worked together on several illustrated volumes, most significantly of Plantae Selectae and Hortus Nitidissimus

Ehret's works are best known because of his collaborations with Trew, but these engravings do not do justice to Ehret's original paintings, which are extremely vibrant, sensitively colored, and accurately detailed. Indeed, Ehret's original watercolor paintings on both paper and vellum show his unique style of draftsmanship, which simultaneously provides a wealth of scientific information while illustrating the natural beauty of his subjects with delicacy and subtlety. In fact, Ehret became such a skilled and precise draftsman that his friend and colleague Mark Catesby, the famed artist and naturalist, used several of his botanical illustrations for his influential work Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. Catesby was inspired by Ehret's distinctive style, his remarkable representation of three-dimensionality, and his ability to depict his flowers with both realism and vitality. In turn, Ehret used some of Catesby's discoveries and observations in his own work. Ehret's work is also highly esteemed because he was one of the first European flower painters to represent exotic flora from the Americas. Although he never did have the opportunity to travel to America, he was captivated by the beautiful, fascinating species of flowers from across the Atlantic which he had seen in natural history collections in England, including that of Peter Collison.

Living and working during the "golden age of botanical art," Ehret's work as a flower painter is truly unparalleled in terms of his representation of scientific detail and his keen sensitivity to the natural beauty of his floral subjects. His distinctive style, exemplified here in his glorious Gloriosa, transcends scientific illustration, achieving a level of beauty that has rarely been equaled in the history of botanical art.

For more information about this work, or other watercolors in the Arader Galleries collection, please contact Alison Petretti at 646.673.4505 or by email