Pierre-Joseph Redouté biography by Flora Botanica Store

The Most Famous Artist You've Never Heard Of: Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Often called the greatest botanical illustrator of all time, Pierre-Joseph Redouté had a passion for flowers and made it his life's work to paint thousands of species.

Redouté is known for the stunning accuracy of his floral paintings, as well as the beauty and delicacy of his work, which is still admired today. He was an artist who observed flowers, but also loved them.

We adore Redouté's art here at Flora Botanica, but we're amazed by how few people know his name, so we wanted to share the story of possibly the most famous botanical artist in the world. But first...

3 Fascinating Facts About Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Pierre Joseph Redouté Fun Facts on Flora Botanica Store blog
  1. As artists go, he was pretty rock 'n' roll. He left home at 13 and travelled around Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg seeking fame and fortune as a painter, attending art lectures and perfecting his technique.

  2. Royals were his biggest fans. Both Marie Antionette, Queen of France, and Joséphine Bonaparte, Empress of the French, fell in love with his work and bank-rolled a large part of his career, along with several other European royal families.

  3. Steve Jobs of Apple fame was a big Redouté fan and a keen collector of his work. Allegedly, he badgered art dealers to buy up every rose painting in existence. Not an easy task, as his original book of rose paintings was purchased by King Charles X of France and the full contents have been dispersed widely in the last two centuries. (Portrait image: Look and Learn)

Art in the Blood: Redouté's Road to Success

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was born in Saint-Hubert in Belgium on July 10 1759 during the Age of Enlightenment – a time when great thinkers and scientists were striving to understand the universe (and nature) better. The whole movement had a great influence on literature and art.

Vinca Major Study by Pierre Joseph Redouté on Flora Botanica Store blog

He was born in the perfect era to indulge his interest in botany, but Redouté also had artistic talent in his genes. His grandfather and father were both painters, involved in decorating the local abbey. They taught him and his two brothers to paint at a young age. 

When Redouté was 23, his older brother Antoine-Ferdinand – a set designer for Parisian theatres – invited him to work with him in Paris. (Incidentally, their younger brother, Henri-Joseph, forged a successful career as a zoological artist.)

Outside of work, Redouté continued to hone his craft and found a mentor in Gerard van Spaendonck – a Dutch artist and professor of flower painting. He also found an enthusiastic patron in wealthy French botanist, Charles L'Héritier de Brutelle, who taught him how to study and draw plants accurately. The duo took an extended trip to Kew Gardens in London to capture many of the plants there. L'Héritier eventually commissioned two illustrated books from Redouté, which is when his career really took off. (image: Vinca Major plant study by Redouté)

Redouté and the Royals

Marie Antionette Portrait

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was moving in well-connected circles and, with the help of his mentors, his botanical paintings soon caught the eye of French nobility. 

In 1789, he was employed as 'Draughtsman to the Queen's Cabinet' of Marie Antoinette. His role was to teach her to paint, but it also gave him access to the gardens at Petit Trianon in Versailles. (image: painted by Joseph Hickel)

Despite this close alliance with the royal family, Redouté somehow emerged unscathed from the French Revolution and, after Marie Antoinette's demise, he found work as an artist at the Museum of Natural History, where he contributed hundreds of artworks to the records of the botanical gardens there.

Josephine Bonaparte Image


It wasn't long before he was wooing the royal court again. By the early 1800s, he was being paid a handsome sum (reportedly 18,000 francs per year) as the official flower artist for Joséphine Bonaparte – wife of Emperor Napoleon (image: wood engraving by Henry Wolf).

She tasked Redouté with painting the plants in her beloved gardens at Chateau de Malmaison, which had rare and interesting blooms from all over the world.

Redouté produced some of his best-loved paintings during this period. At one point, he was so well known and celebrated as an artist, he had his own private accommodation in the Louvre and could command sums of over £30,000 for a single painting. 

Joseph-Francois Grille, a biographer at the time, described him as having, "exquisite taste, a deep feeling for art, a fine sensibility, nobility of character, and the perseverance needed for the development of genius: such was Redouté who had all the pretty women in Paris as his pupils.

Redouté: Riches, Roses and Rags

Water Lilies by Pierre Joseph Redouté on the Flora Botanica Blog

Thanks to Joséphine's patronage, Redouté's work flourished and he produced many collections of paintings, including a book of flowers on the Jardin de la Malmaison. However, his two most famous books were:

  • Les Liliacées (The Lilies) – published between 1802 and 1816. (image: Water Lilies by Redouté)
  • Les Roses (The Roses) – published between 1817 and 1824.

After Joséphine died, Redouté continued painting. The Louvre held an exhibition of his work in 1819 and from 1822 he worked as drawing master at the Museum of Natural History. He also tutored many other royals and dignitaries, including Louise of Orléans, Queen of Belgium. 

Unfortunately, Redouté had developed expensive tastes and, as work dwindled, he struggled financially and had to sell off some of his possessions to pay his debts. In June 1840, in Paris, he died at the age of 80. He was in the midst of planning a new floral masterpiece.

Redouté left behind a wife and two daughters and an outstanding legacy – more than 2,000 paintings of plants and flowers from all over the world, some of which had never been documented before and some of which, sadly, no longer exist.

Redouté Remembered

Stop and Smell the Roses Art Print by Flora Botanica Store and Pierre Joseph Redouté

Pierre-Joseph Redouté's paintings are still so highly regarded, collections of original bookplates have been known to fetch millions at auction.

Today, in his home town of Saint-Hubert, there is a Pierre-Joseph Redouté Museum honouring his work and displaying some of his original paintings and personal belongings. A fitting tribute to one of France's most renowned artists – the man that brought us roses that bloom forever.

Now, at Flora Botanica, we're breathing new life into Pierre Redouté's original flower paintings, using his vintage botanical illustrations in fresh new art prints – from his classic roses to garden flowers and wild flowers. We're sharing his art in exciting new ways and hoping to bring it to a whole new audience, offering personalised floral prints, rose collages, typographic prints and even using his art in beautiful birth flower prints.

We hope he would be pleased that his art his lives on 200 years later and we hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.

Vive le Redouté!

Flora B x




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