Saturday, June 13, 2009

Glass Flowers of Harvard

The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston has an amazing collection of glass flowers that were painstakingly hand made by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka between 1886 and 1936. These models were made because the founder of Harvard's Botanical Museum wanted life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany.

The Blaschkas' studio was located in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, Germany. Just imagining these fragile works crossing the Atlantic ocean and arriving intact in Boston was awe inspiring and a feat in and of itself for that time.

I photographed the collection of these gorgeous biological specimens with fellow artist Heather Horton-Flynn who is a glass artist. She explained how incredibly difficult it was to create fine hair-like structures and get accurate coloring in glass. We marveled at the skill and time it must have taken to make these life-like objects.

Life-like but with no life. As beautiful as these forms are, they had a dullness and seemed to lack a vibrant life energy that the real thing has. This came as a surprise, as I expected them to be like the bright shocking hues of flowers we see in the grocery store.

Glass Pitcher Plant

I am always inspired by natural forms and particularly enjoyed the cross sections and magnifications of the flowers reproductive organs. How like a mandala a transverse cross section of a flowers ovaries are.