Hypolepis eepeny, c. 1855
Unknown (British - 19th century)
33.1 x 20.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 39164)
fern leaf, leaflets arranged on each side of common axis; photogram
In Victorian England, women from well-to-do families were encouraged to pursue certain intellectual pastimes, one of which was the study of botanical specimens. Anna Atkins used her considerable artistic skills and knowledge of light sensitive chemicals, gained from her scientist-friend Sir John Herschel, to make botanical cyanotypes. The characteristic blue silhouette of a cyanotype is obtained when an object is placed on paper coated with an iron salt solution and exposed to light. Atkins' thousands of published images captured the interest of a number of educated young women who soon became skilled practitioners. The unknown maker of this fern print might have been one of these inspired women.