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from Fine Bonsai: Art and Nature
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from Fine Bonsai: Art and Nature
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Fine Bonsai
Art & Nature

Photographs by Dr. Jonathan M. Singer/ Text by William N. Valavanis

Size: 12" x 15", 416 pages
Published 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7892-1112-5
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In this luxurious volume, renowned botanical photographer Jonathan Singer presents his breathtaking images of the world's most notable bonsai.

This edition is cloth-bound hardcover with a glossy slipcase; the deluxe edition of Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature is cloth-bound hardcover with a leather-bound spine and an handsome cloth slipcase.

-- Slideshow

"Retired podiatrist Jonathan Singer has worked magic in [Fine] Bonsai: Art and Nature, an elegant album featuring hundreds of full-page images of the miniature potted trees that represent a horticultural art form dating back 2,000 years." -- Audubon Magazine

"Dr. Singer combined his interest in botany and horticulture with his technical and aesthetic expertise to produce stunning photographs of some of the most extraordinary bonsai in the world. Printed by a chromogenic process, the images take on a three-dimensional appearance that accentuates both their beauty and their usefulness as documentation of this specialized subject." -- Smithsonian Institution Libraries

"What a bonsai gallery book should strive to be... exceeds my lofty expectations... a book for anyone... I would buy this book in a heartbeat." -- ofBonsai Magazine

"These are not your traditional images of bonsai... Each tree depicted has its unique character, and the artist has focused on the most beautiful, powerful, evocative or sculptural element in each." -- Golden Statements, magazine of the Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF)

"A book of this caliber should do three things: provide aesthetic beauty, educate the viewer, and spark enthusiasm - new or renewed - for bonsai. Fine Bonsai accomplishes all three." -- International Bonsai

"This delicate balance between nature and art is even more beguiling when considered through Singer's exquisite photographs." -- ARTnews

"...Under the eye of renowned photographer Jonathan M. Singer the curious shapes and slightly disorienting scales have found a new context in which to be appreciated." -- Publisher's Weekly

The practice of cultivating bonsai may be traced back some two thousand years, to the earliest representations of potted trees in Chinese art, and is thought to have reached Japan in the Heian period (AD 794—1185), a time of rich cultural exchange. This unique branch of horticulture attained its maturity, and received its present name, in Japan’s Edo period (1603—1868), and many fine bonsai are recorded in the woodblock prints of that era. As Japan broadened its trade and diplomatic contacts after the Meiji Restoration, bonsai became a matter of international interest, and today bonsai masters around the world have learned to grow hundreds of varieties of trees and shrubs in miniature, training them into living sculptures. Their exquisite creations, which change with the passage of the years and the cycle of the seasons, exemplify the connection between man and nature, life and art.

In Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature, the finest extant achievements in the art of bonsai are seen together for the first time, through the lens of renowned botanical photographer Jonathan Singer. This magnificent volume is the result of an ambitious photographic campaign, in the course of which Singer was granted unprecedented access to the most respected public and private collections in Japan and the United States, including the mecca of bonsai, the Omiya Bonsai Village of Saitama, Japan, where photography is normally prohibited. Three hundred stunning full-page images and four lavish gatefolds present bonsai of all types, from quiet representations of nature to colorful fall foliage to bold sculptural forms. The horticultural and aesthetic characteristics of each bonsai are concisely and authoritatively described in the narrative captions by William N. Valavanis, head of the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York. And because the container is considered an integral part of any bonsai—indeed, the literal meaning of “bonsai” is “tray plant”—the book also includes some twenty-five photographs of traditional bonsai containers, with descriptions. A further sequence of twenty-five photographs is devoted to the related art of suiseki, or miniature stone landscapes displayed in the same manner, and often alongside, bonsai.

With his groundbreaking first book, Botanica Magnifica, Jonathan Singer established a new style of botanical photography, characterized by an exceptional clarity of detail and richness of color, as well as a painterly chiaroscuro. These qualities are just as evident in the present volume; Singer photographs each bonsai with an artist’s—one might even say a portraitist’s—eye, capturing its individual character, and in some cases revealing qualities hitherto unsuspected even by those who tended it daily. Fine Bonsai not only documents the masterpieces of an ancient horticultural art, but also is a masterpiece in itself.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Jonathan M. Singer’s double-elephant folio of Botanica Magnifica is kept in the Cullman Rare Book Room at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Dr. Singer was named a Hasselblad Laureate Award winner (2008) and Carl Linnaeus Silver Medalist from the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (2009) based on his contribution marrying art with science, and to “our perception and appreciation of the botanical world.” His many achievements include his appointment as Research Collaborator, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

William N. Valavanis has made over fifty trips to Japan where he apprenticed with well-known bonsai artists Kyuzo Murata and Kakutaro Komuro in Omiya Bonsai Village in Japan. He is the proprietor of the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York, where he maintains a collection of classical bonsai.

Thomas S. Elias, Ph.D., was the former director of the U.S. National Arboretum and the U.S. National Bonsai and Penjing Museums, Washington, D.C.

W. John Kress, Ph.D., is the Director of the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet Office of the Under Secretary for Science. He is the author of Abbeville’s Weeping Goldsmith.

Sean Smith is a contributing editor of the North American Viewing Stone Society and a member of the Nippon Suiseki Association.

Hiroshi Takeyama is the Executive Director of the Nippon Bonsai Association. When time permits, he teaches his bonsai techniques and artistry at worldwide conventions.

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