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Flora and fauna of the New World

Adventurer John White painted the first images the English saw of plant and animal life in the Americas

William L. Sharfman
To us, the watercolors of John White, a 16th century painter and traveler, may seem rather ordinary. There's a pineapple, a flamingo, an iguana -- things many people now see every day. But when White painted these images in 1585, they represented England's first glimpse of the flora and fauna of a mysterious body of land known as the Americas.White made no fewer than five voyages to the New World between 1584 and 1590, under the aegis of Sir Walter Raleigh. The watercolors, all owned by the British Museum, were last exhibited in the 1960s. Some of the 75 pieces, done in black lead, ink, and watercolor, unfortunately suffered water and fire damage during a 19th century fire.Now, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony, the British Museum is again exhibiting White's watercolors. Curators of the exhibit maintain that White's images aided both...

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