This is the story of the Reeves Collection of botanical paintings, the result of one man’s single-minded dedication to commissioning pictures and gathering plants for the Horticultural Society of London.
Reeves went to China in 1812 and immediately on arrival started sending back snippets of information about manufactures, plants and poetry, goods, gods and tea to Sir Joseph Banks. Slightly later, he also started collecting for the Society but despite years of work collecting, labeling and packing plants and organizing a team of Chinese artists until he left China in 1831, Reeves never enjoyed the same degree of recognition as other naturalists in China.
The Collection is held at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library in Vincent Square, London. It is a magnificent achievement. Not only are the pictures accurate and richly colored plant portraits of plants then unknown in the West, but they stand as a record of plants being cultivated in nineteenth-century Canton and Macau. In John Reeves: Pioneering Collector of Chinese Plants and Botanical Art, Kate Bailey reveals John Reeves’ life as an East India Company tea inspector in 19th-century China and shows how he managed to collect and document thousands of Chinese natural history drawings, far more than anyone else at the time.
by Kate Bailey
ACC Art Books, August 2019 (ISBN 9781788840316)