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 William Bartram  (1739 - 1823)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: botanical studies, views, birds

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An early American botanical illustrator, William Bartram was the seventh of eleven children of John Bartram, who was royal botanist to King George III in North American and lived in Philadelphia. John Bartram had received the first copy of Englishman Mark Catesby's two-volume book, "The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands", published between 1729 and 1747, and young William was so inspired by it that he took up painting botanics. He later earned money by making money from his drawings and watercolors of plants and animals for English patrons. He had wide exposure because he accompanied his father on collecting trips in Pennsylvania, New England and the Carolinas. Unfortunately for him, most of his work was published after his lifetime.

From 1773 to 1777, under the sponsorship of Dr. John Fothergill, a Philadelphia admirer of the work of the young man, William Bartram was on an expedition through the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. This trip and his subsequent follow up "established him as the rightful heir to his father's reputation as the continent's leading naturalist." (Peck) He traveled 2400 miles on foot and horseback and by boat and collected and did drawings of hundreds of plants, many unknown to scientists, and he also kept an extensive journal. He brought the specimens back to his home in Philadelphia, and earned increasing respect and attention from American and European naturalists. In 1812, he was elected to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

His drawings are in the British Museum's Natural History section at South Kensington and consist of 16 colored depictions of snakes, birds, and flowers, and 64 black and white representations of birds, flowers, alligators and marine life.

Although he was a many of many scientific and artistic accomplishments, he "has met with undeserved neglect" (Grove & Wallace 34) and has been much overshadowed by the work of John Woodhouse Audubon, whom he preceded.

Bartram died at his home in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1823.

Robert McCracken Peck, 'Bartram's Garden: Seedbed for Two Centuries of Wildlife Art', "Joel Oppenheimer" 35th Anniversary Catalogue, 2004, of the Natural Art Gallery, p. 3
Grove and Wallace, "Dictionary of Artists in America"

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