Botanical wonders

WAG tours “Botanical Expressions,” part of the ongoing “Nature By Design: Selections from the Permanent Collection” series at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan.

Spring may still be weeks away, but the feeling of botanical renewal is in full force at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan.

WAG editor in chief Georgette Gouveia introduced the sweeping exhibition “Nature By Design: Selections from the Permanent Collection” in our May 2019 issue, exploring how the museum’s sixth triennial of nine exhibits would be rolling out at Cooper Hewitt.

Recently, I stopped in to catch “Botanical Expressions,” the latest unveiling in the series – and it proved a memorable visit.

This particular exhibition focuses on key figures in the decorative arts from the 18th through 20th centuries, which has been translated into a trove of captivating works by notables including Christopher Dresser, Émile Gallé, William Morris, Mary Morris, Alphonse Mucha and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Yes, even just a mention of those names gives an idea of the exquisite collection of nearly 100 works visitors will find – a broad mix of textiles and vases, jewelry and illustrations, furniture, silver and more.

As museum materials share, “At the turn of the 20th century, the intersection of botanical study with design practice stimulated an array of plant forms and motifs in furnishings, glassware, ceramics, textiles and more.”

The exhibition further spotlights “how designers, inspired by nature and informed by scientific knowledge, created vibrant new designs in America, Britain, France and the Netherlands. Blossoming vases, plantlike structures, fanciful garden illustrations and a diversity of vegetal and floral patterns reveal how nature and design dynamically merged.”

Be prepared to spend time exploring this exhibition, which continues through Jan. 10, as it’s filled with decorative treasures.

The “Nature By Design” galleries have had staggered openings and closings.

For more, visit

– Mary Shustack

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