Fungi, Unicorns, and Beached Whales:
Artists as Naturalists
For millennia, flora and fauna have served as the principal inspiration for artistic creations,
from the Lascaux cave paintings and the bestiaries that filled the margins of medieval devotionals
to Dutch trompe l'oeil flower paintings. In the 18th century, however, an unprecedented fusion of
art and science occurred when natural history matured from a fashionable pastime to a highly
respected scientific field premised, in part, on the availability of high-quality illustrations.
Blending observation with a finely tuned aesthetic sensibility, artists collaborated with scientists
in an international effort to catalog native and exotic species alike. Originally founded as a natural
history museum, the Fleming Museum houses a rich and eclectic collection of natural history illustrations,
including important works by John James Audubon, Albrecht Dürer, and Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Fungi,
Unicorns, and Beached Whales: Artists as Naturalists brings together such classics with works by more
contemporary artists such as Charles Demuth and Arthur Dove, who approached nature with an eye toward
individual expression rather than systematic classification. Featuring paintings, drawings, prints,
photographs, and illustrated books, this exhibition offers a historical overview of the many ways that
artists have chosen to represent the natural world around them.