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Indian Botanical Art: an illustrated history

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The book brings together and shows for the first time ever striking botanical art of Indian origin spanning a period of three hundred years.


Author: Martyn Rix. With a foreword by Sita Reddy. 224 pp. 150 colour botanical paintings. 241 x 190 mm. Hardback, ISBN 9781842467220, Kew Publishing in partnership with Roli Books, 2021.

The book brings together and shows for the first time ever striking botanical art of Indian origin spanning a period of three hundred years, focussing in particular on the 18th and 19th centuries. Drawn mostly from original works held in the collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, some of the paintings have never been published before. They showcase not only the wealth of the Indian sub-continent flora but the richness and variety of artworks, commissioned from mostly unknown Indian artists, who made a substantial contribution to the documentation of plants of economic, ornamental and cultural importance.

The 18th century saw a growing interest in the natural world, and an almost obsessive attempt by Europeans travelling and working around the world to describe the plants and animals they saw. At the same time, sophisticated engraving techniques, lithography and other advances in printing created a demand for paintings to be published for those who could afford expensive illustrated books.

Many remarkable works were painted by talented Indian artists working under the patronage of the East India Companies. Having previously been employed by the Mughals these highly skilled artisans created beautiful, life-sized, accurate records of the colours and details of living plants, responding to European influences but also retaining their own traditions and styles. This is the background to a unique flowering of Indian botanical art, as revealed in the book.

In recent years there has been a renaissance of botanical painting throughout India, with artists exhibiting around the world, teaching botanical painting to a new generation. Some examples are shown in the final chapter, demonstrating how traditions begun in the 18th century are continuing to excite interest today.

Media coverage:

How miniature painting helped lay the foundations of Indian botanical art. House & Garden 

...the kind of book where you’ll learn something new every time you open it. Sara Walker


Martyn Rix is a renowned horticulturalist, and author of many books including The Golden Age of Botanical Art (Andre Deutsch, 2018) and co-author of Treasures of Botanical Art (Kew Publishing, 2018), Flora Japonica (Kew Publishing, 2016) and Treasured Trees (Kew Publishing, 2015), and editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. In 2002 he was awarded the Gold Veitch Memorial Medal by the RHS for his services to horticulture, and in 2008 a Tercentary bronze medal from the Linnean Society.

Sita Reddy is an independent scholar and curator based in Hyderabad who has been Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and visiting professor at the University of Hyderabad’s Department of Fine Arts. She writes on a range of topics at the intersection of art and science ranging from the history of plant medicine to the decolonisation of natural history museums and archival justice. She is editor of Marg magazine’s special issue The Weight of a Petal: Ars Botanica, 2018/9, and her projects on botanical art have grown out of grants from the Wellcome Library and India Foundation of the Arts. She is currently working on a book on the visual genealogy of the Indian medicinal archive, provisionally titled The Jangala Books. She blogs occasionally at and hosts the online portal

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