artincontext Main Index   |   Welcome   |   Register   |   Edit

Anna Atkins

24.3 x 19.8 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

J. Paul Getty Museum

Excerpt from The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles:

Attributed to Anna Atkins (British, 1799 - 1871), and / or attributed to Herschel Family, Anne Dixon (British, 1799 - 1877)
Confervae, 1843 - 1845, Cyanotype
24.3 x 19.8 cm (9 9/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Trained as a botanist, Anna Atkins developed an interest in photography as a means of recording botanical specimens for a scientific reference book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. This publication was one of the first uses of light-sensitive materials to illustrate a book. Instead of traditional letterpress printing, the books handwritten text and illustrations were created by the cyanotype method. Atkins printed and published Part I of British Algae in 1843 and in doing so established photography as an accurate medium for scientific illustration.

Atkins learned directly about the invention of photography through her correspondence with its inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot. Although she owned a camera, she used only the cameraless photogenic drawing technique to produce all of her botanical images. With the assistance of Anne Dixon, Atkins created albums of cyanotype photogenic drawings of her botanical specimens. She learned the cyanotype printing method through its inventor, the astronomer and scientist Sir John Herschel, a family friend.

Additional Information:

Anna Atkins: Biography, Collection, Exhibitions, Research
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Anna Atkins, British, (1799-1871)
b. March 16, 1799,  Tonbridge, UK
d. 1871

Art in Context - Projects:
Art in Context - Art for the Day: March 16

© 1995-2018 Art in Context Center for Communications. All rights reserved.