21st Annual Mays Symposium: Old Worlds - New Worlds: Botanical Fervor in the Age of Discovery

Saturday, February 3, 2018
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

John L. Santikos Auditorium


Price: $25 students | $50 members | $75 non-members  

Martin Johnson Heade 
American, 1819–1904
Passion Flowers with Three Hummingbirds, circa 1875
Oil on canvas
h. 17 1/4 in. (43.8 cm.); w. 22 1/8 in. (56.2 cm.)
Purchased with funds provided by the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, 82.77

21st Annual Mays Symposium  
Old Worlds – New Worlds: Botanical Fervor in the Age of Discovery
Saturday, February 3, 2018
9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. | Registration begins  at 9:00 a.m.
Space is limited.

The region “is so fertile that even if I could describe it, one would have difficulty believing in its existence.”

                        Christopher Columbus, letter to the King & Queen of Spain (1493)              

The earliest flower drawings were for the most part made to assist the searcher after herbs and simples. Realism was required and to a surprising degree achieved... the illuminations provided for herbals nearly two thousand years ago were highly naturalistic.

Wilfrid Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration (Chapter 1)


The discovery of the Americas and subsequent opening of new trade routes with China, Japan and Australia opened a new world, offering astonishing possibilities. Flush with the euphoria of success, Columbus, conquistadors, and their emissaries reported lush landscapes and strange and unfamiliar sites. They took home samples of everything from seed pods and feathers to indigenous artifacts – fascinating curiosities for their European sponsors. Soon ships crisscrossed the oceans laden with commodities and trade goods from newly opened ports of call circumventing the globe. The age of discovery brought unimaginable riches along with a thirst to identify and document the new and unknown natural worlds. Scholars and artists accompanying the expeditions began the laborious task of collecting, identifying, sketching and cataloguing.


Join our distinguished speakers as we explore the visual bounty of the natural world:

The Golden Age of Botanical Art
Martyn Rix, Ph. D.
Botanist, collector, horticulturalist and author; editor Curtis’s Botanical Magazine
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
London, UK

Martinez Companon, the Bishop of Trujillo; The Bishop’s Utopia
Emily Berquist Soule, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of History
California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, CA

The Curious Mr. Catesby: a “truly ingenious” naturalist explores new worlds
David J. Elliott
Executive Director, The Catesby Commemorative Trust
Charleston, SC

Unity of Nature: Alexander von Humbolt and the Americas
Katherine Manthorne, Ph.D.
Professor of Art of the United States and Latin America and Their Cross Currents, 1750-1950
The Graduate Center
City University of New York
New York, NY


This is the twenty-first in a series of fine and decorative art symposia underwritten by the Mays Family Foundation.

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