The age of magnificent pomological art began with 16th century Flemish still life painting and spanned more than two hundred years. It reached its pinnalce in 19th century France with the collaboration of two great botanical artists—Pierre-Antoine Poiteau (1766-1854) and Pierre François Turpin (1775-1840).
Poiteau was born in Ambleny, close to Soissons. The son of very modest parents, he was not able to afford schooling, but he practiced gardening at a young age. At only 20 years old, he became head gardener in a convent near his home. Soon dissatisfied, he preferred to try his chances in Paris. Initially, he offered his services to Parisian market-gardeners and florists. Soon thereafter, he applied to the Botanical Garden in 1789 where he was admitted as a gardener.
Though self-taught as a botanist and artist, he made enough of an impression to be sent to set up a botanic garden at Bergerac. He was next sent as a plant collector to Santo Domingo, where he met and became friends with Pierre Jean Francois Turppin, who was stationed there with the French army. Their friendship developed into an artistic collaboration which provided illustrations for some of the most elaborate botanical publications of the period.
Poiteau's work represents a culmination of the efforts of those who preceded him. From the 17th century onward, scientific interest in botany and pomology grew. The advent of formal European flower gardens in 18th century France laid the foundation for what was to come. Sponsored by French nobility and royalty, particularly the Empress Josephine, these flower gardens provided the inspiration and patronage that allowed Pierre Joseph Rédouté to perfect the technique of stipple engraving. This milestone in color printing provided artists with a technique that equaled in subtelty the original watercolor painting's richness, delicacy and beauty.
Poiteau, working with Rédouté's printer, Langlois, achieved a superby realistic and tactile quality with his remarkable fruit pictures. Poiteau also contributed a scientific accuracy to this work never before achieved or since equaled. In 1846 he published a final version, without Turpin, of what is considered to be the finest example of pomological art ever created: Pomologie Français. It is among the last great folios of fine stipple engravings form this era.