William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings
|Top Left: Gambier Top Right: Black Pepper, Bottom Left: Wild Nutmeg (Gymnacranthera farquhariana) Bottom Right: Durian|
|Artist||Anonymous Chinese artists (from Macau)|
|Year||1819 - 1823|
|Material||Watercolour on Paper|
|Location||National Museum of Singapore, Singapore|
|Owner||GK Goh Holdings|
The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings consists of 477 watercolour botanical drawings of plants and animals of Malacca and Singapore by unknown Chinese (probably Cantonese) artists that were commissioned between 1819 and 1823 by William Farquhar (1774 – 1839). The paintings were meant to be off scientific value with much detail to be shown as seen in most drawings except for birds, which shows a storyline much more than what was the original purpose of the drawing. For every drawing, Farquhar writes the botanical and/or scientific name of the specimen in pencil a translator pens the name of it in Jawi (using ink). The paper provided is usually European Paper with blue rectangular borders around it to create a frame.
Due to poor quality of work done by the artist, some drawings have not been identified. But somehow, botanist have identified some flora and fauna drawn, one including a female drawing of a Raffles's Malkoha which breast is too tinted yellow. Others which have yet to be identified include, a drawing of a climber similar to Smilax, plate 29 of the collection inscription reads, Soogow probably a misspelling of Saga, in spite of this reason the plant is much more different to the latter.
Suggestions by historians say that, most of the backdrops in the drawings were refereed through drawing manuals. One such example is a drawing of the Greater Mousedeer, which in the background of the subject shows a leafless climber attached to a rock. But according to some scientists, mousedeer do not live in such areas with rocky outcrops. This concludes that either the artists did not go to observe the environment of the subject or if they did, they weren't observant.
Two volumes of books the first being,The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, was published in 1999 showing 141 of these illustrations. A second edition containing prints of all 477 works in the Farquhar collection was published by Editions Didier Millet and the National Museum of Singapore in 2010.
- The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings. Singapore: Goh Geok Khim. 1999. ISBN 978-981-3065-82-6. 2 vols.
- Laura Dozier (ed.) (2010). Natural History Drawings: The Complete William Farquhar Collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Museum of Singapore. ISBN 978-981-4217-69-9.
- Deepika Shetty (9 September 2011). "Precious menagerie: The William Farquhar collection of rare watercolours have finally found a permanent home". The Straits Times (Life!): D4–D5.
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