Press Release - Sweeping International Loan Exhibition to Explore Images of Latin American Nature From the Late 1400s to the Mid-1800s

April 24, 2017


“Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin,” part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, is on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery
Sept. 16, 2017–Jan. 8, 2018


Left to right: 1) Feathered cape, Tupinambá people, Brazil, 17th century, feathers and vegetable fibers, 70 ¾ × 59 × 39 ⅓ in. Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, AAM 5783, © RMAH. 2) José María Carbonell, Loranthus, Royal Botanical Expedition to the New Kingdom of Granada led by José Celestino Mutis (1783–1816), tempera on paper, approx. 21¼ × 15 in. Archivo del Real Jardín Botánico- CSIC (Madrid).


SAN MARINO, Calif.— A sweeping international loan exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will explore how the depiction of Latin American nature contributed to art and science between the late 1400s and the mid-1800s. “Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin,” on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery from Sept. 16, 2017 to Jan. 8, 2018, will feature more than 150 paintings, rare books, illustrated manuscripts, prints, and drawings from The Huntington’s holdings as well as from dozens of other collections. Many of these works will be on view for the first time in the United States.


“Visual Voyages” will be complemented by a richly illustrated book, along with an array of other programs and exhibitions, including a sound installation by Mexican experimental composer Guillermo Galindo. The exhibition is a part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, an exploration of Latin American and Latino art that involves more than 70 arts institutions across Southern California.


“Despite notorious depredation of people and resources during the period, the brilliant work of a number of Latin Americans and Europeans helped to illuminate our understanding of the natural world,” said Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at The Huntington and co-curator of “Visual Voyages.” “We aim to shed light on this relatively unexamined piece of the story—to show how beautiful, surprising, and deeply captivating depictions of nature in Latin America reshaped our understanding of the region and, indeed, the world—essentially linking art and the natural sciences.”


“Visual Voyages” looks at how indigenous peoples, Europeans, Spanish Americans, and individuals of mixed-race descent depicted natural phenomena for a range of purposes and from a variety of perspectives: artistic, cultural, religious, commercial, medical, and scientific. The exhibition examines the period that falls roughly between Christopher Columbus's first voyage in 1492 and Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, a work based largely on Darwin’s own voyage to the region in the 1830s.


“Information and materials circulated at an unprecedented rate as people transformed their relationship to the natural world and to each other,” said Daniela Bleichmar, associate professor of art history and history at the University of Southern California (USC) and co-curator of the exhibition. “Images served not only as artistic objects of great beauty but also as a means of experiencing, understanding, and possessing the natural world. These depictions circulated widely and allowed viewers—then and now—to embark on their own ‘visual voyages’.”


Bleichmar, who was born in Argentina and raised in Mexico, is an expert on the history of science, art, and cultural contact in the early modern period. Her publications include the prize-winning book Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2012).


The Huntington’s three collection areas—library, art, and botanical—all contribute to “Visual Voyages.” Its Library is one of the world’s greatest research institutions in the fields of British and American history, art, and the history of science, stretching from the 11th century to the present, and includes such riches as the first European depiction of a pineapple and a rare 16th-century manuscript atlas that includes three stunning maps of the Americas. From The Huntington’s art holdings, Frederic Edwin Church’s monumental painting Chimborazo (1864) will be on display, depicting a Latin American landscape both real and imaginary. The Huntington’s 120 acres of gardens include several thousand plant species from Latin America, including pineapple, vanilla, cacao, and various orchids and succulents.


Visitor Experience

Designed by Chu+Gooding Architects of Los Angeles, “Visual Voyages” engages visitors through an evocative installation that includes interactive media, display cases of specimens and rare materials, and two walls almost completely covered with grids of visually arresting depictions of botanical specimens and still lifes.


The exhibition opens with a playful display of taxidermy mounts to make vivid the rare animals that captured the imagination of Europeans and were avidly collected during the period.


“Visual Voyages” then begins with a section on “Rewriting the Book of Nature,” in which manuscripts, maps, and publications show how nature came to be reconsidered in the first century of contact. This section includes a copy of the 1493 letter Christopher Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain while on the return leg of his first voyage to the New World. He writes that the region is “so fertile that, even if I could describe it, one would have difficulty believing in its existence.” This section highlights the many contributions of indigenous Americans to the exploration of New World nature, among them two large-scale maps painted by indigenous artists in Mexico and Guatemala; a volume from the Florentine Codex, a 16th-century Mexican manuscript on loan from the Laurentian Library, Florence; and a spectacular feather cape created by the Tupinambá of Brazil.


Next, a gallery called “The Value of Nature” explores the intertwining of economic and spiritual approaches to Latin American nature. Commercial interests resulted in the investigation, depiction, and commercialization of such natural commodities as tobacco and chocolate. Indigenous religions considered the natural world to be infused with the divine, while Christian perspectives led observers to envision Latin American nature as both rich in signs of godliness as well as marked with signs of the devil—and needing eradication. Various depictions of the passion flower, a New World plant, show how the flower’s form recalled to missionaries the instruments of Christ’s Passion.


A third section, “Collecting: From Wonder to Order,” shows how the “wonder” that European collectors held for the astonishing material coming from the New World became a desire to possess and, later, to “order” this material, following systems of taxonomy and classification. On view will be a spectacular set of large paintings depicting Brazilian fruits and vegetables by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout (ca.1610–1665) as well as 30 artful, vivid, and detailed drawings of botanical specimens painted by artists from New Granada (present-day Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, northern Brazil, and western Guyana), never before seen in the United States.


The final section of the exhibition, called “New Landscapes,” examines scientific and artistic perspectives on Latin America created in the 19th century, a period when a new wave of voyagers explored the region and independence wars resulted in the emergence of new nations. The Romantic and imperial visions of artists and scientists from Europe and the U.S. are juxtaposed with the patriotic and modernizing visions of artists and scientists from Latin America, who envisioned nature as an integral part of national identity. This juxtaposition can be seen visually in the pairing of The Huntington’s monumental Chimborazo by Church with the equally monumental Valley of Mexico (1877) by Mexican painter José María Velasco, on loan from the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City.


Gallery text is in Spanish and English.


Exhibition Catalog

“Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin” is accompanied by a hardcover book of the same title written by Daniela Bleichmar, co-curator of the exhibition. In a narrative addressed to general audiences as well as students and scholars, Bleichmar reveals the fascinating story of the interrelationship of art and science in Latin America and Europe during the period. Published by Yale University Press in association with The Huntington, the 240-page book contains 153 color illustrations. $50.00. Available beginning in September 2017 at the Huntington Store and online at


Related exhibitions and programs

The Huntington will present an array of public programs to complement “Visual Voyages,” including a lecture, a curator tour, and focused exhibitions. Updated information about related programs is available at


Guillermo Galindo Installation and Performance

Experimental composer, sonic architect, and performance artist Guillermo Galindo will create an outdoor sound installation and performance at The Huntington during the run of the exhibition. The program is part of USC Annenberg’s Musical Interventions, a series of public events organized for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA by Josh Kun, historian of popular music and recently named a MacArthur Fellow.


Nuestro Mundo

Sept. 16, 2017–Jan. 8, 2018

Flora-Legium Gallery, Brody Botanical Center, weekends only


About two dozen paintings by students of Art Division make up this installation of works inspired by “Visual Voyages.” Art Division is a non-profit organization dedicated to training and supporting underserved Los Angeles youth who are committed to studying the visual arts.


In Pursuit of Flora: Eighteenth-Century Botanical Drawings from The Huntington’s Art Collections

Oct. 28, 2017–Feb. 19, 2018

Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper room


European exploration of other lands during the so-called Age of Discovery revealed a vast new world of plant life that required description, cataloging, and recording. By the 18th century, the practice of botanical illustration had become an essential tool of natural history, and botanical illustrators had developed strategies for presenting accurate information through exquisitely rendered images. From lusciously detailed drawings of fruit and flowers by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708–1770), a collaborator of Linnaeus, to stunning depictions of more exotic examples by the talented amateur Matilda Conyers (1753–1803), In Pursuit of Flora reveals the 18th-century appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.


Conference at The Getty Center
Indigenous Knowledge and the Making of Colonial Latin America

Dec. 8–10, 2017


This symposium will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the ways in which indigenous knowledge contributed to the making of colonial Latin America. A dozen talks will examine practices related to art, architecture, science, medicine, governance, and the study of the past, among other topics. Curator-led visits to two related exhibitions—“Visual Voyages” at The Huntington and “Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas” at The J. Paul Getty Museum—will allow participants to view magnificent examples of work by indigenous artists and authors, including more than half a dozen rare pictorial manuscripts (codices).


The symposium is organized by Daniela Bleichmar, co-curator of Visual Voyages and Kim Richter, co-curator of “Golden Kingdoms” and senior research specialist at the Getty Research Institute, with funding from the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, the Seaver Institute, and the Getty Research Institute. For registration and more information, visit


# # #


Thea M. Page, 626-405-2260,
Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140,


About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at


Visitor Information
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information: 626-405-2100 or


Credit line

“Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin” is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.


Major support for this exhibition, catalog, and the Musical Interventions series is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation.


The exhibition also received generous support from Sharon and John Light and Scott Jordan, and additional support from The Ahmanson Foundation Exhibition and Education Endowment.



Request Images



José María Carbonell, Loranthus, Royal Botanical Expedition to the New Kingdom of Granada led by José Celestino Mutis (1783–1816), tempera on paper, approx. 21¼ × 15 in. Archivo del Real Jardín Botánico- CSIC (Madrid).



Le vrais Bresil es province du Quito (The true Brazil, a province of Quito), in Vallard Atlas, Dieppe (France), 1547, tempera, gold paint, gold leaf, and black ink on parchment, 14 ½ × 18 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.



José María Velasco (1840–1912), Valle de México (The Valley of Mexico), 1877, oil on canvas, 63 3/16 × 90 7/16 in. Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA, Mexico City, SIGROPAM 24433. Reproduction authorized by the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature, 2016.



Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Chimborazo, 1864, oil on canvas, 48 × 84 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation. © Fredrik Nilsen photography.



Albert Eckhout (ca. 1610–1666), Fruits, pineapple and melon, etc., 1640–50, oil on canvas, 35 13/16 × 35 13/16 in. Photo: John Lee, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, N.92.



Feathered cape, Tupinambá people, Brazil, 17th century, feathers and vegetable fibers, 70 ¾ × 59 × 39 ⅓ in. Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, AAM 5783, © RMAH.



Nopal planta que se cría en la América y que produce la grana (The nopal plant that is grown in America and produces cochineal), in Reports on the History, Organization, and Status of Various Catholic Dioceses of New Spain and Peru, 1620–49, pigment and ink on paper. The Newberry Library, Chicago, Ayer MS 1106 D8 Vault Box 1 Folder 15.



Le Chimborazo, vu depuis le plateau de Tapia (Chimborazo Seen from the Tapia Plateau) in Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), Vues des cordillères, et monuments des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique, (View of the cordilleras and monuments of the indigenous peoples of the Americas), Paris: F. Schoell, 1810–13, color aquatint, mezzotint, engraving, and etching with watercolor, 20 × 27 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.



Antonio García Cubas (1832–1912), agricultural map in Atlas pintoresco é historico de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, (Picturesque and historical atlas of the United States of Mexico), Mexico City: Debray Sucesores, 1885, chromolithograph, 24 13/16 × 30 11/16 in. The Newberry Library, Chicago, Ayer 655.59.G2.



Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590) and indigenous artists and scribes, description and illustration of Mexican medicinal herbs in the Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva España, (General History of the Things of New Spain), also known as the Florentine Codex, ca. 1577, ink and color on paper, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence Ms. Med. Laur. Palat. 220. Reproduced with permission of MiBACT.



Vicente Albán, Yapanga from Quito, Quito (Ecuador), 1783, oil on canvas, 31 ½ × 42 15/16 in. Museo de América, Madrid, 00074.



Intermediate Stages of Blooming, in John Fisk Allen (1785–1865), Victoria regia; or, The Great Water Lily of America, Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1854, chromolithograph, 15 × 21 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.


About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

Read More