Alice Tangerini’s botanical illustrations all begin the same way: with a seemingly simple line drawing, in which she explores a plant’s features—leaves, seed, stem, perhaps a flower or two. Next, she uses a microscope to investigate her specimen’s tiny hairs and veins, recreating their likeness in delicate lines with the pressure-sensitive pen of an architect or engineer drafter. Tangerini has adopted the tools and the vision of both the artist and scientist for her work, which is, as she describes it, “art in the service of science.”
Tangerini is the first and only botanical illustrator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where she has been putting her stamp on plant science for 46 years. Over the course of her career, Tangerini has created hundreds of illustrations from over 1,000 different plant species from all over the world. Her artwork has appeared in books, peer-reviewed science journalsand museum exhibits. Prominent botanist Warren H. Wagner calls Tangerini “irreplaceable” in the field of botanical illustration.
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