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Nature: Botanical Expressions

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Design +3 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

At the turn of the 20th century, the intersection of botanical study with design practice stimulated an array of plant forms and motifs in furnishings, glassware, ceramics, textiles, and more. Botanical Expressions reveals how designers, inspired by nature and informed by scientific knowledge, created vibrant new designs in America, Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Blossoming vases, plantlike stuctures, fanciful garden illustrations, and a diversity of vegetal and floral patterns reveal how nature and design dynamically merged.

An increasing number of designers, trained as botanists, advocated for the beauty and order of nature’s systems, colors, and patterns. Many manufacturers operated in proximity to gardens for natural study and stocked books of botanical illustrations as resources for their designers. These primary sources, on loan from Smithsonian Libraries, appear alongside the objects they influenced.

Since the 19th century, the garden was often seen as a refuge from industry and a natural source of plenty and pleasure. This history of botanical expressions in design illuminates a reflection on the critical role of nature within our world.

Botanical Expressions

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Plate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Glassware

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Vitrified Nature

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Compote

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Ceramics

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Natural History for Dinner

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Plate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Plate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Two-Handled Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Two-Handled Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Textiles

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Textile Design: Honeysuckle and Hollyhocks

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Wallcoverings

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Stamford

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Arcadia

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Honeysuckle

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Jewelry

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Brooch

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Lapel watch

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Brooch

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Book

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Beyond the Crystal Palace

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

The Bases of Design

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Les Fleurs Animees, vol. 1

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Furnishings

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

The Geometry of Nature

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Toast Rack

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Kettle and stand

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Rocking chair

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Side chair

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Scientific

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Paxton's Magazine of Botany, vol. 12

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Plate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Decorative

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

America

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Handkerchief

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Pair of candlesticks

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Lidded Jar

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

England

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Plate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Rose Wreath

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

William Morris

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Tulip and Rose

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Reclaiming & Enlivening the Book

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

The Wood Beyond the World

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Walter Crane

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The Peacock Garden

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

France

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

aquatic plants, green, pink

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Emile Gallé

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Netherlands

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Sidewall

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Vase

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

NEWS

Cooper Hewitt Education Department

Botanical Lessons

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum