Review by Bebe Bradley
Botanical artist and author of several books, Rosie Sanders's work has been displayed in many galleries, including the 'Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art' at Kew Gardens in London. She is also the recipient of five Gold medals from the Royal Horticultural Society and has won the Royal Academy miniature award. Rosie currently lives in Devon where she runs botanical painting courses.
'Rosie Sanders' Flowers' is an over-sized ‘large-format’ book which features over 80 of her botanical paintings. Here, Rosie exhibits a variety of flowers and plants, ranging from tulips and orchids to roses and irises, illustrated with perspective and light, in glorious colour and fine detail.
There are 6 chapters including Diversity in the Garden, A Fascination of Orchids, Varieties of Belladonna and In Search of the Black Iris. The book is introduced by Swiss Botanist Dr Andreas Honegger and the paintings are accompanied throughout by his informative commentary and observations. An index of images at the back contains the details of each painting - the dimensions, the name and the year in which it was produced – alongside a list of the names of each flower or plant featured. For a special treat, tucked into the cover at the back, there is also a print for you to frame.
Botanical art is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but granted, there is something quite extraordinary about the ability to capture a flower or plant in all its hyper realistic detail. Dr Honegger describes it best, saying, “We are confronted with reality in its most concrete form; indeed, in the case of many hyper-realists, this can frequently even tip over into an aesthetic of the ugly: many critics of this style argue that we do not wish to see things depicted with such unflinching exactitude; others find faithful reproduction of this kind simply boring”. So yes, it’s a bit ‘Marmite’. You either love this style or hate it but the skill is remarkable and undeniable. Dr Honegger also points out that hyper-realists tend to paint large scale and Rosie is no exception, her flowers and plants fill entire walls. I haven’t seen any of her paintings in exhibition but I can imagine that you would be blown away by both the scale and the architecture of the pieces.
The book itself tries to convey this scale with its larger format, and by judiciously cropping the images so that you are looking at the detail of the detail, if you like. However, because I haven’t seen Rosie’s work, I found myself standing with the book held at arm’s length, trying to interpret and make sense of some of the images. When I held the book at a normal reading distance, I personally found it difficult to ‘see’ the detail. Even though it’s writ large, the detail of Rosie’s paintings becomes abstract, just as I imagine it would if you stood too close to her work at an exhibition, nose to paint.
This aside, you are still able to appreciate her stunning work and it would make an ideal gift for the flower gardener in your life. Not only because of the paintings but also due to Dr Honegger’s interesting snippets of information regarding the flowers, their history and why Rosie has chosen these particular blooms and their botanical features.
If you are an artist who wants to get a closer look at an expert’s technique, or a gardener or reader who just appreciates contemporary botanical art, then this book will be perfect for you. It’s filled with Rosie’s beautiful and extraordinary work and, as it says on the cover, is "A Celebration of Botanical Art".
'Rosie Sanders' Flowers: A Celebration of Botanical Art'
Published by Batsford in hardcover. RRP £30