Thistle (Carduus acanthoides)

Anna Atkins (English, 1799–1871)


Image: 34.9 x 24.8 cm (13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.) Mount: 48.3 x 38.1 cm (19 x 15 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, cyanotype photogram

Not On View


Europe, Photography



Anna Atkins, a trained botanist with a background in scientific book illustration, became interested in the new invention of photography as a means of recording her botanical specimens. Using the cyanotype, a highly stable chemical variant of Talbot’s photogenic drawing technique, Atkins published the first photographically illustrated book, Photographs of British Algae. Atkins’s Thistle (Carduus acanthoides), from her later publication British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns, is an artful presentation of a scientific subject. The featured plant spreads its bold form diagonally across the paper, overarching a smaller specimen. Its rough leaves and stems are sharply delineated against the characteristic Prussian blue background of the cyanotype, the accuracy of the representation confirming the value of the technique for scientific illustration.


Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., New York; purchased November 1986.

Credit Line

Sophie M. Friedman Fund