Study from P. H. Gosse's Actinia mesembryanthemum
2018. h:27cms x w:21.7cms (framed).
It was a joy to handle an original copy of Philip Henry Gosse's book 'A History of the British Sea Anemones and Corals' (published 1860) during my research. The illustrated plates were exquisite and the typography and content were so atmospheric and of their time, that I decided to closely study his plate VI of Actinia mesembryanthemum (Beadlet anemone) and Actinia fragacea (Strawberry anemone). (This would inform a later drawing made from a Leopold Blaschka glass model of a beadlet anemone held in the Discovery museum archive.) I was intrigued and charmed by Gosse's earnest assertion that these images were '...made from the life...' as this makes an intriguing counterpoint to how Blaschka initially sourced his imagery. The scientific exchange of information and occasional unintentional misinterpretation of natural history discoveries (for example, the confusion over anemones being animals or plants) is a wonderful expression of the necessarily imperfect human search for understanding. This 'slippage' in naming and labeling provides a fascinating artistic space to explore the human need for, and struggle to reach, a satisfactory explanation or truth not only for our understanding of the world around us but of ourselves.
Artwork Group Image: