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Photograph - Papaver Orientale
  • Papaver Orientale
    Atkins, Anna, born 1799 - died 1871
  • Enlarge image

Papaver Orientale

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1852-1854 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Atkins, Anna, born 1799 - died 1871 (photographers)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case EDUCATION, shelf 12.2

As a botanist and early photographer, Anna Atkins quickly realised the benefit of using the cyanotype process to record specimens of plant life, such as this poppy. Cyanotype was invented by the astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. The following year, Atkins became the first person to print and publish a photographically illustrated book, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, part 1. To make a ‘photogram’ with the cyanotype process, the photographer laid an object on paper impregnated with iron salts, then exposed the paper to sunlight for a few minutes. When washed in water, the area where the plant had blocked the light remained white, but the area that was exposed came out a rich blue.

Physical description

Blue and white photographic image (photogram) of a poppy

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1852-1854 (made)


Atkins, Anna, born 1799 - died 1871 (photographers)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 35 cm, Width: 24.2 cm

Object history note

One of 160 plates removed in 1981 from a unique album, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants, inscribed by the artist in 1854 as a gift to her family friend and collaborator, Anne Dixon, second cousin of the novelist Jane Austen. Provenance: The artist; Anne Dixon; Sotheby's Belgravia, London, October 28, 1981

Descriptive line

Cyanotype print of a poppy.

Labels and date

Cameraless Photography

Anna Atkins (1797–1871)
Papaver Orientale from British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns
35 x 24.8 cm
Museum no. PH.381-1981

At the time of its invention, the cyanotype process was little used, except for printing ‘photograms’, like this example. From the 1880s it was used for copying engineering and architectural drawings, giving rise to the term ‘blueprint.’



Subjects depicted

Flower; Poppy




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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