Drawn from Life: Science and Art in the Portrayal of the New World

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University of Toronto Press, 1998 - Art - 320 pages
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The use of images as evidence in historical writing has been largely neglected by historians, though recent interest in the importance of visualization in scientific literature has led to a reappraisal of their value. In Drawn from Life, Victoria Dickenson uncovers a vast pictorial tradition of 'scientific illustration' that reveals how artists and writers, from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century portrayed the natural history and landscape of North America to European readers.

Dickenson undertakes a close reading of the images created by European artists, most of whom had never seen North America, and unravels the threads that linked the images to the curiosities and specimens that reached the Old World. Drawing on a wide range of illustrations - woodblock prints, engravings, watercolours, and maps - she examines several important issues regarding the nature of imagery: the tension between naturalistic representation and stylistic conventionalism; the role of the medium used in creating the image (especially the rise of printmaking); the historically changing function of images; and the need to consider historical context in 'reading' such pictures.

While many contemporary artists claimed that their work was 'drawn from life,' their images were, in fact, also works of the imagination. Drawn from Life is an illustrated archaeology of the imagination that allows readers to see North America as Cartier, Champlain, and early naturalists perceived.

  

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Contents

The Bittern from HudsonsBay
3
Emblematic Animals
19
The Su the Bison and the Simivulpa
34
The Representation as Counterfeit
51
The Living Image
69
The Sea of Simples
86
The Garden in Print
92
Cornut and Charlevoix
99
The Importance of Preservation
153
The Classification of the Visible Part Two
163
The Invention of the Present Age
169
The Universal Language
178
A Country Observed
189
Animated Nature
201
Drawing and Nature
227
Cognitive Anchorage
242

The Redefinition of Landscape
105
The Conventions of Landscape
111
The Imposition of Order
126
Meta Incognita
137
The Exploration of the New World
146
NOTES
245
BIBLIOGRAPHY
279
CREDITS
301
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

VICTORIA DICKENSON is Director of the McCord Museum in Montreal.

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