The Best Vintage Watercolor Fruit Paintings
Even at my age I still come across words I never heard of before, (or I just forget them). My latest new word is Pomology which according to Wikipedia is a branch of botany that studies and cultivates fruit. I came across the word when I find a bunch of absolutely gorgeous watercolor fruit paintings from the US Departement of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Fruit Collection.
The Pomological Watercolor collection is an amazing archive of thousands of amazing watercolour fruit paintings and line drawings. There are over 3000 paintings of apples alone in the collection. Many varieties of which no longer exists. Most of the watercolour paintings were completed between 1886 to 1916 by several different artists.
Here I have curated a collection of some of my favourite fruit paintings from the collection which you are copyright free.
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Watercolour Fruit: Apple & Pear Paintings
Apples and pears along with plums are part of the rose family. Apples are one of the most commonly cultivated fruits. They are grown all over the world but originated from Central Asia. Like most fruits apples are believed to have health benefits, hence the common saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
There are over 8,000 varieties of apple and over 3,000 in the watercolor fruit paintings of them in the Pomological collection. Here I have selected some of the best apple paintings.
Watercolor fruit painting of the Mann variety of apples painted in 1912 by Ellen Schutt.
Illustration of the Ingram variety of apples painted by Amanda Newton in 1911.
A watercolor illustration of a Willow apple by Mary Arnold 1917. Mary Arnold was one of the post prolific artists at the USDA. Between 1908 and 1940 she painted over 1060 watercolor fruit illustrations.
Another one of Mary Arnolds fruit paintings this time of an English Jargonelle variety of pears (Pyrus communis). Painted in 1912.
Hoover apple variety painted by Amanda Newton in 1907.
An Anju Pear painted by Ellen Shutt in 1910. The USA is one of the largest growers of pears in the world. Most of the pears are grown in the West Coast states of Oregon and Washington. Every pear in the US is picked by hand.
Vintage Citrus Fruit Illustrations
Citrus fruits include crops such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and pomelos. Pomelo is one of my favourite fruits, it is the largest of all the citrus fruits.
We used to have a Pomelo tree in our garden in Hong Kong that produced a few fruits every year. The pomelo is a popular festival fruit in South East Asia, especially with New Year celebrations. There are many health benefits associated with eating citrus fruits. They contain high levels of vitamin C.
This lovely picture is of the Un-Shu variety of tangelo (Citrus tangelo) painted in 1908. A tangelo is a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a tangerine.
The Sport variety of lemon. This watercolor was painted in 1885.
Lemons originally come from South Asia. They have both culinary and non-culinary uses. The juice of the lemon has a sour taste making it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as Lemon Drizzle Cake and Meringue Pie. Lemons are also used to flavor savory dishes especially those containing fish and seafood.
The acidic nature of lemon juice also makes a good cleaner especially for the removal of limescale.
Watercolor of triumph variety of grapefruit (Citrus paradisi).
Grapefruits originate from Barbados and are a hybrid between oranges and Pomelo. They are sour like lemons but also bitter too. People on medication have to be careful about eating grapefruits and the juice as it can interfere with the performance of many drugs.
Painting of a Navel orange by Amanda Newton, 1914.
Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world. It is a hybrid between a pomelo and a mandarin. Brazil is the largest grower of oranges in the world followed by the USA and China. Orange juice is such an important product that it is one of the commodities traded on the New York Board of Trade.
Persian lime painted in 1909 by Elsie Lower.
The Persian lime is the most widely grown and popular variety of limes. The fruit turns yellow as it ripens, but it is often sold while still green.
Schang variety of pomelo, painted by Mary Arnold in 1931.
Vintage Prints of Berry Fruits
Watercolor Sparhawk cherries (Prunus avium) painted 1915.
Cherry blossom is one of my favourite flowers. The street I live on is lined with cherry trees. It looks so pretty in spring when they are in full blossom. I’d love to visit Japan in spring one year to visit the famous cherry blossom parks.
A 1916 painting of the Early Giant variety of Strawberries by Mary Arnold.
Technically in botanical terms the Strawberry isn’t a berry. China grows the most strawberries.
At the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament 28,000 kg of Strawberries is eaten with an average of 10,000 liters of cream over the fortnight. This winning combination has been served at every tournament since the first ever Wimbledon tournament in 1877.
Botanical painting of Eaton variety of red raspberries by Ellen Schutt 1906.
Raspberries are one of my favourite fruits to pick in the wild. They grow all along the hedge rows near my home. Be careful to only pick the ripe ones though. Unlike other fruits raspberries do not continue to ripen once picked.
A watercolor fruit print of blackberries painted by Amanda Newton 1913.
Blackberries are another favourite fruit of mine to pick in the wild. They grow along the river bank near my home and in August I can normally pick a few kilos of them in a morning.
I do wear long sleeves and gloves when blackberry picking as the branches are super thorny. The hassle in avoiding the spikes is well worth it for the delicious apple and blackberry crumble I make with the fruit.
A 1915 watercolor painting of blueberries by James Shull.
My first wild blueberries were picked from the forest floor in Norway. Blueberries are the only food naturally blue in colour. They are also have one of the highest antioxidant health benefits in a comparison with more than 40 fresh fruits and vegetables.
A 1914 watercolor painting of the Jumbo variety of American Cranberries by Mary Arnold.
Cranberries will always be associated with Christmas. No Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner is complete without cranberry sauce.
Tropical Watercolor Fruit Paintings
Mangosteens are actually my favourite fruit, but you don’t come across them often here in the UK. If you have never had one the white flesh tastes a bit like lychee crossed with a passionfruit. Just make sure you don’t bite into the purple flesh though as it is extremely bitter.
Watercolor illustration of the Hayden variety of mango by Royal Charles Steadman, 1923.
More fresh mangoes are eaten every day than any other fruit. The mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. It is also the national tree of Bangladesh. In India, harvest and sale of mangoes are during March–May and this is annually covered by news agencies.
Watercolor fruit pineapple painting by James Shull 1919.
I think of the pineapple as the king of fruits, it is so majestic looking with its armor and crown. The pineapple is actually a welcoming symbol, which is perhaps why it’s such a popular image in home interiors.
Botanical illustration of a cut papaya by Mary Arnold, 1912.
The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw it is enhanced with a squeeze of lime. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked and is used as an ingredient in salads. Raw papaya is a very popular ingredient in Thai cuisine like the famous Sam Tom salad.
A 1906 watercolor fruit illustration of the Guava by Amanda Newton.
Guava is often labeled as “super fruit” because it contains 4 times more vitamin C than orange, 3 times more proteins and 4 times more fiber than pineapple, 2 times more lycopene than tomato and slightly more potassium than a banana. Guava juice is delicious and a family favourite.
Botanical painting of pomegranate by Amanda Newton from the Pomological Watercolor Collection.
The name pomegranate means apple with many seeds. The seeds and the jelly like flesh surrounding them are the edible parts of the pomegranate. Pomegranate juice is full of antioxidants. My favourite use for pomegranates is in Middle Eastern salads.
A 1916 watercolor painting of the Wagner avacado by Royal Charles Steadman.
Yes, avocados are a fruit and not a vegetable. Avocados contain four grams of protein, making them the fruit with the highest protein content.
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