Botanist-turned-artist Anna Atkins had a lifelong love of plants. She set about creating hundreds of images of plants that fascinated her, using the ‘cyanotype’ process which primarily uses sunlight to create prints. The outcome was her now famous blue and white images of striking beauty and simplicity. She travelled all over the world collecting botanical samples and visited Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to make impressions of the island’s rich diversity of ferns and other plants.
Atkins’ meticulous work and her contribution to early photography went unnoticed for more than a century after her death. But, now they are celebrated as a landmark in artistic processes and archived at museums. She was the first person to produce and photographically illustrate a book using cyanotypes, and some consider her the first woman to take photographs. We find her work a beautiful example of what simple processes can create. These cyanotype prints, made using only base chemicals and sunlight, seem a fitting tribute to her beloved plant world that is nourished by the sun’s love.
✺ This eagle fern (Pteris aquilina) is just one of 307 images in a hand-copied book Atkins created. It has now been recreated by us as a screen-print with PD rights from Rijksmuseum archives.
Sun’s love: one-colour screen-print