Bunny Mellon’s Botanical Art Blooms in the Bronx

Don't miss this world class art collection at the New York Botanical Gardens.

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Georg Dionysius Ehret, Southern magnolia (circa 1737). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
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Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Tulips and Roses. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Pierre-Joseph Redoute
Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Tulips and Roses. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Pablo Picasso, Pot of Flowers II. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, Pot of Flowers II (1958). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Cristoforo Munari, Still life with a quince, an apple, lemons, and three Chinese blue-and-white cups. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Cristoforo Munari
Cristoforo Munari, Still life with a quince, an apple, lemons, and three Chinese blue-and-white cups (circa 1700). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Konrad von Megenberg, manuscript text and watercolor on paper in Buch der natur (circa 1350). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Konrad von Megenberg
Konrad von Megenberg, manuscript text and watercolor on paper in Buch der natur (circa 1350). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Sophie Grandval, Dandelion (1990). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Sophie Grandval
Sophie Grandval, Dandelion (1990). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Hans Simon Holtzbecker, Bodycolor on vellum in An Album of Plants (circa 1665). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Hans Simon Holtzbecker
Hans Simon Holtzbecker, Bodycolor on vellum in An Album of Plants (circa 1665). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Jan van Kessel the Elder, Study of plants, insects, arachnids, mollusks, and reptiles (1653–58). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
van-kessel_09
Jan van Kessel the Elder, Study of plants, insects, arachnids, mollusks, and reptiles (1653–58). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Young Daughter of the Picts (circa 1585). Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Young Daughter of the Picts (circa 1585). Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Andy Warhol, Vine Leaf Marinade (1959). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, Vine Leaf Marinade (1959). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Daniel Seghers, Flower bouquet in a glass vase. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
seghers-cropped
Daniel Seghers, Flower bouquet in a glass vase. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin, Honeysuckle (1736–85). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin, Honeysuckle (1736–85). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Henri Rousseau, Flowers of Poetry (1890–95). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Henri Rousseau
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau, Flowers of Poetry (1890–95). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Georg Dionysius Ehret, Southern magnolia (circa 1737). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Georg Dionysius Ehret
Georg Dionysius Ehret, Southern magnolia (circa 1737). Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Nicolas Robert, Tulip Campanula and Sunflower. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.
Nicolas Robert
Nicolas Robert, Tulip Campanula and Sunflower. Courtesy of the Oak Spring Garden Library.

If Rachel “Bunny” Mellon (1910–2014) had a singular passion in her more than a century of life, it would be her love of gardening. In addition to tending gardens from the age of 12, Mellon was an avid collector of botanical books, manuscripts, and artwork, a selection of nearly 80 of which are currently on view at the New York Botanical Garden.

The exhibition features some of the rarest items in Mellon’s collection, none of which can be found in the garden’s own Mertz Library. The works on view, which are both beautiful and culturally and historically significant, range from a 14th-century manuscript to 20th-century works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. Renaissance masterpieces, too, share the spotlight with decorative art, contemporary lithographs, and 19th-century scientific models.

To house her impressive collection, Mellon founded the Oak Spring Garden Library on her estate in Upperville, Virginia. The first branch of the building opened in 1981, and the facility currently hosts 16,000 objects. To date, four catalogues of the collection have been published, and it is available in its entirety for public research.

The earliest work currently at the garden is unique manuscript, circa 1350, of Konrad von Megenberg’s Buch der natur, a natural history and medicine encyclopedia that doubles as the first German-language natural history text.

This is paired with artwork inspired by Holland’s tulipomania craze of the 1630s, a particular interest of Mellon’s. She was also a connoisseur of 18th- and 19th-century French art, such as the celebrated botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Of more recent vintage is a Warhol piece featuring a playful recipe for a vine marinade, accompanied by illustrations of grape leaves.

“Countless imaginative creations have found their expression in flowers, and the cycle of their life has the strength of sensual pleasure with their scent, fruit, and seeds,” wrote Mellon in the forward to her 1997 catalogue An Oak Spring Flora. “Their presence inspires our tired spirit with their fragile being, and allows our minds to go beyond its earthly limits. Poets and lovers wander into their secret realms, hoping for permission to share part of their mystery.”

As Mellon no doubt could have told us, the power and beauty of botanical art across the centuries is fully present at the Botanical Garden.

Redouté to Warhol: Bunny Mellon’s Botanical Art” is on view at the New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, October 8, 2016–February 12, 2017.


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