European Ethnobotany and Art

Winter 2017 quarter

Taught by

Frederica Bowcutt
botany, ecology, environmental history
  • UG

Students in this program will learn about medieval and early modern European botany and northern Renaissance art in a historical and cultural context, with some limited hands-on learning in herbology. Our study will include European herbals with an emphasis on the period between the 15th and 18th centuries, which was an important period in the history of western botany. We will explore how the rise of the market economy and scientific revolution influenced the rise of botany as a profession. The growing interest in plants, science and medicine at this time goes hand-in-hand with the development of the art as it moves toward a focus on nature and humanity in landscape painting and secular portraits and away from a single-minded attention on religion. However, spirituality is still a prime motivator of the age. In studying art of the northern Renaissance we will examine exquisite panel paintings, visionary illuminated manuscripts, expressionistic German Renaissance sculpture and the origins of printmaking. During the 16th century this world is shaken by the Reformation and religious wars—leading to the enigmatic, tortured subject matter of Grunewald and Bosch. We will also examine the claim that the witch-hunts constituted a kind of pogrom on women with healing knowledge and midwifery skills. Lectures and readings will cover the history of art, colonial botany, horticulture, medicine, and natural history from 1400 to 1800. In hands-on practicums, students will learn to prepare salves, tinctures, decoctions, and infusions. They will also spend time learning botanical illustration in watercolor and creating their own herbal in the form of a handmade book using the historical and beautiful Coptic Stitch. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

art history botany cultural studies gender and women's studies visual arts

Preparatory For

book arts, cultural studies, ethnobotany, printmaking, visual literacy, art history, studio art, alternative medicine, education, and museum work.


Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Monday, January 9th at 10am (Sem II C1105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$40 for supplies.


2016-11-16Description updated.
2016-04-14New winter opportunity added.