Chinese Art and the Reeves Collection is a selection of some of the finest examples of Chinese natural history drawings in the Natural History Museum's collections, many of which have never been published before. Chinese Art and the Reeves Collection brings together a unique collection of botanical, zoological and entomological drawings depicting the natural history of China. Commissioned and collected during the early nineteenth century by John Reeves and his son, and now housed in the Natural History Museum, London, these outstanding images are important not only for their striking beauty but also for their scientific significance.
Sent to China in 1812, John Reeves was a tea inspector for the East India Company and a keen amateur naturalist who commissioned hundreds of scientific drawings from local artists, which were then sent to Britain. Despite often being highly stylised, the images helped to further European knowledge of Chinese natural history during a time when access to the country was severely restricted. Through their dedicated and enthusiastic work, Reeves and his son helped pave the way for some of the great explorers and collectors that followed.
Judith Magee has managed the art collections of the Library of the Natural History Museum, London, for over 10 years. She is the author of Art of Nature and The Art and Science of William Bartram and has contributed to several other books including Plant Discoveries: A Botanist's Voyage Through Plant Exploration and The Great Naturalists.