Botanical illustration is a marriage of art and science, and is characterized by accurate observation and highly realistic forms. With roots in the botanical drawings of early Greek botanists such as Pedanius Dioscorides, contemporary botanical art has remained faithful to many centuries-old traditions. Over the course of its history, it has also expanded upon convention through a diversification of media and a broader range of artistic sensibilities.
While the focus of botanical illustrations remain accuracy and documentation, contemporary botanical artists have forged new avenues of representation within the idiom. Communicating the physical attributes of a plant or flower remains central to any botanical illustration, but the modes of communication have evolved in order to cater to aesthetic ideals as well.
In this vein, botanical illustration can be understood as a variant of still-life that is defined by its artificial emphasis on and isolation of specific elements. Though the two styles are similar, botanical illustrations rely heavily on objectivity and directness, avoiding the atmospheric compositions and lighting that typify most still-lifes. Floral still-lifes, for example, are rarely considered to be botanical flower illustrations even though their subjects are the same. Botanical illustration distinguishes itself as a unique discipline through its accurate rendering and focused celebration of the exquisite forms found in nature.