Historical paintings help scientists to better understand plant evolution and ecology

17 November 2017

​Often travelling together and spending a lot of their free time in art museums, long-time friends David Vergauwen and Ive De Smet decided to combine two of their passions – historical paintings and plant genetics. David, trained as an art historian and working at Amarant, and Ive, working as a plant biologist at VIB–UGent, cleverly use cultural-historical resources to connect fruit, vegetable and crop depictions to their evolution and genetic changes. Through this unique, interdisciplinary approach, combining historic and genetic studies, the two scientists have already unlocked the mysteries of carrot and bread wheat evolution.

David and Ive now launch a crowd sourcing campaign to collect depictions of plants in historical paintings and other art objects. You can help by sending in your pictures when travelling or visiting a museum. Take a picture of old or new depictions of fruits, vegetables and crops you stumble upon in museums and send them to us at ArtGeneticsDavidIve*Replace*With*At*Sign*gmail.com. Please follow museum guidelines when taking pictures (e.g. do not take pictures when it is not allowed). Your help will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged in the work1  

Please take 3 pictures per object following these guidelines.
Picture 1: information on the object, artist, etc.
Picture 2: overall view of the object
Picture 3: detail of the fruit, vegetable or crop

1 For final publication all necessary permissions will be obtained to reproduce the artwork.


Ive De Smet (VIB-UGent) & David Vergauwen (Amarant) 
© Liesbeth Everaert, 2017