Dr. Robert John Thornton is best known for his botanical prints. Although he was not primarily an artist, his series “The Temple of Flora” is perhaps the single most famous of all florilegium. To produce his botanical prints, Thornton employed other artists and engravers. He intended to issue seventy plates illustrating Linnaeus’ discoveries and the sexual systems of plants. He completed only twenty-eight plates before he found himself in financial ruin as the project fell victim to Thornton’s fanatical attention to detail and the changing tastes of the social elite.
Thornton opened a gallery in London in 1804, exhibiting original paintings and selling catalogues. His main objective was to publicize the publication and release of his folio of engravings. He applied for and was granted permission by Parliament to hold a lottery, for which the prize for first place would be the entire contents of his gallery. The lottery was largely unsuccessful and Thornton died poor, financially ruined by his dream.