Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Silva of North America -- continued

The naturalist John Muir wrote of Sargent: "While all his surroundings were drawing him toward a life a fine pleasure and the cultivation of the family fortune, he chose to live laborious days in God's forests, studying, cultivating, the whole continent as his garden." The effusiveness of Muir's language is very un-Sargent, very un-Yankee, but the sentiment is exact.

If Sargent is more or less forgotten today, his illustrator Charles Faxon is doubly forgotten. And what a shame. His exquisite renderings of every leave and seed that Sargent described were a momentous contribution to 19th-century descriptive botany.

Faxon's illustrations inspired me to make dozens of whimsical drawings, now exhumed half-a-century later from the detritus of the past, each incorporating some fragment of Faxon's originals, Can't say that I know what this was all about, but it must have seemed an urgent compulsion at the time. Here are five chosen at random. Click to enlarge.