Drawing at Natural History Museum

Updated: May 22, 2019

6 March 2019


To See the Moveing Pensil; display a Sort of paper Creation, which may Endure for Ages”: William Bartram as a Natural History Artist.



botanical and zoological drawings of William Bartram

Inspired by the Extinct Animals wallpaper collection” Moooi ” wallcovering by the brand ARTE that I saw on my visit to the London design week 2019 at Chelsea harbour, I decided to do the same by going and looking at the botanical and zoological drawings at the Natural history museum library and archives. The Museum's Library and Archives are home to artworks by hundreds of illustrators, naturalists and painters.

Botanical and zoological drawings by William Bartram.


William Bartram was an American naturalist. He explored the American Southeast to record the region's plants, animals, and Indian peoples. William Bartram had a well-documented career as a natural history artist spanning 50 years, from 1753-1803, A number of William Bartram’s drawings were engraved for publication in his lifetime. At least 58 engravings are known and there were likely a few more. The few 15 drawings I saw illustrates Bartram’s Travels. He was commissioned work to explore the Florida territories, collecting seeds, making drawings, and taking specimens of unfamiliar plants.


Sarah Sworder a staff at the Museum’s library collection, takes care ofWilliam’s drawings in our Archives. She says, that even drawings intended to be scientific records have limitations. His work is amazing because he used the paper to its best advantage and showed off the details of his travel subjects. 'Each artist's work is different, depending on their skill, style, level of knowledge and reasons for drawing. Sarah says, 'He really showed off the skill that was needed in the scientific community.



The drawings were scientifically very much detailed and accurate and also skillfully drawn on paper. I am thankful that they allowed me to see the drawings without portfolio covers. Although my intention to go there and have an intense time in middle of my practice was different and knowledgeable, I did not made any pattern or design from the drawings yet but I have a record to use them in my futures works.