Bauer, Ferdinand Lucas

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Bauer, Ferdinand Lucas

(b. Feldsberg, Lower Austria, 20 January 1760; d. Hietzing, near Vienna, Austria, 17 March 1826)

scientific illustration.

Bauer’s fame rests chiefly on his illustrations for John Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca, the most beautiful flora of all time. With his brothers Joseph and Franz, he was educated by Father Boccius, prior of the monastery of the Merciful Brothers in Feldsberg, then worked under Nikolaus von Jacquin, professor of botany in Vienna. When Sibthorp, Oxford’s professor of botany, came to Vienna in search of the Codex vindobonensis of Dioscorides, he learned of Bauer’s work and traveled to Feldsberg to see Boccius’ fourteen-volume manuscript, Hortus botanicus, the 2,750 plates of which were chiefly the work of Ferdinand and his brothers. So impressed was Sibthorp that he immediately engaged Bauer to serve as artist on his expedition to Greece and the Levant. In the ensuing twenty-two months (March 1786 to December 1787) Bauer painted nearly 1,000 watercolors of plants, 363 of animals, and 131 sepia landscapes. Only the plant watercolors were eventually published in the Flora Graeca, a herculean work that took from 1806 to 1840 and cost over £30,000.

Bauer worked on the Flora in Oxford until 1801, when he joined Matthew Flinders on his voyage to Australia. There Bauer and the botanist Robert Brown made a rich collection of material that included over 2,000 sketches by Bauer, 1,541 being of plants. Few of these were ever published, although Endlicher used some for his Prodromus florae Norfolkicae. Bauer attempted to use them in his Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, a project that failed commercially, and in 1814 he left England for Hietzing, which was close to the gardens of Schönbrunn.

Bauer sketched rapidly and colored little on the spot, but noted gradations with a number code so that he could finish his illustrations later. Untroubled by the rigors of travel, he worked hard and achieved an incredible output. Goethe admired the three-dimensional quality of his work, and all botanists respected his accuracy. The overthrow of Linnaean taxonomy was partly due to the Australian work of Bauer and Brown.


I. Original Works. Bauer’s only writing was Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae (London, 1813). Plates are in Boccius, Hortus botanicus, Vols. I–IX, MS at Vaduz, Liechtenstein; Stephan Endlicher, Prodromus florae Norfolkicae (Vienna, 1833); Matthew Flinders, A Voyage to Terra Australis (London, 1814); A. B. Lambert, A Description of the Genus Pinus (London, 1803–1824); John Lindley, Digitalium monographia (London, 1821); and John Sibthrop, Flora Graeca (London, 1806–1840).

II. Secondary Literature. There is no detailed biography of Bauer, few of his letters have survived, and no portrait is extant. The best accounts are Wilfred Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration (London, 1950), and William Stearn, “Franz and Ferdinand Bauer, Masters of Botanical Illustration,” in Endeavour, 19 , no. 73 (Jan. 1960), 27–35. For details of Bauer manuscripts see C. Nissen, Die botanische Buchillustration, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1966).

R. Olby

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Bauer, Ferdinand Lucas

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