Opticals for Woody Allen,
Illustrations for Mother Nature
For about four decades, Dick Rauh
commuted in from Westport, Connecticut, to a firm on 45th
Street in Manhattan called The Optical House, where
he was a principal and for many years its art director. He
and his colleagues specialized in creating the opticalsthe
dissolves, titles, and special effectsfor major films
and countless 30- and 60-second commercials.
Optical House had a famed optical bench
and the expertise to capture special effects on filmOf
course, everythings now in digital form, Rauh
says from his present home in Norwalkand served top-of-the-line
clients. He supervised the main titles for all of Woody Allens
movies and also worked for Mike Nichols, Alan Pakula, and
the noted film producer and purveyor of salad dressings, Paul
Newman. And his commercials helped sell everything from Dove
soap to Bulova watches.
Then Rauh retired
and the plant world hasnt been
safe since. All his life he had painted while traveling or
on vacation, and he decided to take botanical illustration
up more seriously in classes at the New York Botanical Garden
in the Bronx. Rauhs skills eventually brought him into
collaboration with botanical scholars, notably those at Lehman
College like Dr. Dominick Basile.
Rauhs ignorance of the flora he was capturingpreferably
on vellum, the medium of the great 18th-century illustratorsbegan
to weigh on him. I didnt know anything!
he recalls. Soon he was a serious student of botany, and by
1997 a Masters in plant sciences from Lehman College
Finding his studies satisfying and encouraged by Prof. Basile,
Rauh decided to cultivate an even higher degree. He received
his CUNY Ph.D. in biological sciences last year with a dissertation
on Streptocarpus prolixus, a species that puts all its eggs,
so to speak, in one basket: its entire vegetative structure
is one big leaf (its a unifoliate, in botanists
parlance). And he is continuing morphogenetic research on
the plant, focusing on how certain hormones affect its growth.
Meanwhile, Rauhs reputation has been spreading like
wildflowers, for reasons made obvious on this page. He is
now a teacher in the Botanical Gardens Illustration
Program, his prints and paintings hang in many private collections,
and he has had several one-man shows. He has also created
illustrations for the Parks Department, Lehman College, and
for a Yale University Press Guide to Winter Wildflowers.
past president of the International Guild of Natural Science
Illustrators, Rauh is currently focusing his energies on a
hearts desire that involves his profession and his alma
mater. Lehmans presence in computer graphics is
very strong, Rauh says, and he is working to see that
a certificate program in science illustration is established
that would bring the Colleges computer graphics, art,
and science faculties into collaboration.
Rauh proudly recalls working on the opticals for one of the
Star Wars movies. That he cant quite recall which of
the several Star Wars installments it was says a lot. His
thoughts are elsewhere. Clearly, he has moved on from the
intergalactic special effects of George Lucas to the even
more breathtaking special effects of Mother Natureall
those bravura stigmas, sepals and stamens, and extravagant
petals, pistils and perianths.
center is a bougainvillea, the orange part of the plant not
being a flower but a leaf-like structure. At top, a crocus.
Above, a Liriodendron tulipfera, or tulip tree, which Rauh
uses in his class to teach various stages of ontogeny, or
growth. At left, a watercolor of the fruit of the rose family,
which Rauh uses as a teaching aid for his illustration class
at the Botanical Garden; clockwise from upper left are the
rose hip, pome, drupe, drupecetum, and achenecetum.