• Georg Dionysius Ehret

    1708-1770

    Ehret was born in Germany in 1708. He was one the dominant botanical illustrators of the 1700’s and learned the rudiments of drawing from his father, a German market gardener. Young Ehret apprenticed early as a garden assistant to an uncle at Bessungen. After Georg's father died and his mother remarried a man named Kesselbach who had charge of two of the gardens owned by the Elector of Heidelberg. Through his stepfather's influence, Ehret was placed in charge of one of the gardens, where he attracted the attention of the Margrave of Baden. After a period of traveling, Ehret settled in Regensburg, where he worked initially for a pharmacist named Johann Wilhelm Weinmann, painting pictures of plants which were to serve as models for the plates in Weinmann's herbal, the Phytanthoza iconographia. The relationship proved to be untenable for both parties. When Ehret asked for payment for the 500 paintings that he had produced in the course of a year, Weinmann countered by complaining that Ehret was supposed to have produced a 1000 paintings in that amount of time and paid him less than half the amount stipulated for the 1000 illustrations, deducting an additional sum for board. When the work was finally published between 1737 and 1745, no mention was made in it of Ehret, N. Asamin, or the other artists who did the original work, although J. Haid, J. E. Ridinger, and J. Seuter were acknowledged as the engravers. 
    After leaving Weinmann's employ, Ehret remained at Regensburg where he worked for a banker named Lesenkohl making painted copies of exotic plants from the plates of the Hortus Malabaricus This was not a task suited for an original talent such as Ehret. Fortunately, it was during this period that Ehret attracted the attention of Dr. Christoph Jakob Trewof Nuremberg, who was to become a lifelong patron of the artist.

    After Leaving his job with Lesenkohl, Ehret embarked on a trip through Europe on which he made the acquaintances of the leading figures in botany and horticulture. In Holland, he sold a number of his paintings to George Clifford, the wealthy Anglo-Dutch banker, who then commissioned him to provide original illustrations to serve as the models for the plates to accompany the descriptions of the plants in Clifford's gardens and greenhouses at Hartecamp which were then currently being prepared by the young Carl Linnaeus. (1735-1736). The fruit of these efforts is shown in the engravings by Jan Wandelaar from the Hortus Cliffortianus which bears a publication date of 1737, but which was not actually placed in circulation until 1738.

    In 1736 Ehret returned to England, which he had previously visited in the course of his travels. There he married Susannah Kennett, who was the sister-in-law of Philip Miller, the gardener of the Chelsea physick (medicinal) garden. Ehret met Mark Catesby while he was working on the first volume of A Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, the volume that included the birds. Ehret’s paintings influenced Catesby and it is believed at least eleven of the illustrations were painted by Ehret himself, Ehret in fact engraved a couple of the illustrations for the second volume, of Catesby’s Natural History that volume of the First Edition was published in 1743. The Grand Flora Magnolia is one of the best known images from Catesby’s work and it being an Ehret.

    Ehret spent the rest of his career in England, painting, illustrating, and teaching. 

    A number of botanical publications of the mid 1700’s feature Ehret’s illustrations including:

    1731: Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands published in 1731.

    1749: Ehret published himself Plantae et papiliones rariores. published in parts from 1748 until 1759 in folio. The fifteen plates were engraved and hand-colored by Ehret himself. Three additional plates (16-18) were published in 1761 and 1762 but few libraries have all eighteen plates.

    1750: Griffith Hughes' edition of The Natural History of Barbados

    1771: Philip Miller's Figures of the Most Beautiful, Useful, and Uncommon Plants Described in the Gardener's Dictionary published in 1771

    1750: Dr. Christoph Jakob Trew’s Plantae selectae published from 1750 through 1773 

    1768: Hortus nitidissimus omnem per annum superbiens floribus published in 3 volumes bearing publication dates of 1768 through 1786, but actually believed to have been produced from 1750 through 1792. 

    1756: Patrick Browne's spectacular The civil and natural history of Jamaica in three parts published in 1756.

    1789: William Aiton’s Hortus kewensis in 3 volumes published in 1789

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