20x200’s founder and Chief Curator, Jen Bekman, delves into the surprisingly sexy science of fruit cultivation with our debut edition from the USDA’s gorgeous collection of pomological watercolors.
We’ve got self-described “copyright hipster” @xor to thank for today’s edition, Prunus persica: J.H. Hale. His @pomological bot tipped us off to the existence of the USDA’s incredible catalog of thousands of painstakingly detailed watercolor illustrations of fruits and nuts. Created at the turn of the (20th) century, these paintings were subsequently reproduced as lithographs used to illustrate the USDA’s bulletins and yearbooks, and distributed to growers and gardeners across America. Today they’re an amazing testament to a time before photography’s ubiquity, when the marriage of fine art and science bore a bounty of beautiful results.
The catalog itself is extensive and from the moment we discovered it, we’ve been poring over it obsessively planning future editions. “Where to begin?”, we wondered. We’ve pulled literally hundreds of spectacular illustrations, but ultimately decided that this particular peach—ably depicted by botanical illustrator Amanda Almira Newton—was one that could stand on its own in its singular beauty while also provoking all kinds of interpretations, from the straightforward to the provocative.
Since Prunus persica: J.H. Hale’s selection we’ve been interpreting T.S.Eliot with the lurid refrain of Steve Miller’s peach-shaking earworm accompanying our explorations. We’ve also got a newfound appreciation for the peach’s rightful place as one of the sexty-iest of emojis. We’d argue that the peach as depicted in today’s edition is more evocative of the female anatomy that’s coming rather than going. But then again, sometimes a peach is just a peach. today!
With art for everyone,