William Henry Prestele

William Henry Prestele (or Wilhelm Heinrich Prestele) was a German botanical artist known for his lithographs and watercolors of fruits and flowers. He was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany on October 14, 1838 to Joseph Prestele, a lithographer and painter who was employed as a gardener for King Ludwig I of Bavaria. His family immigrated to the United States when he was five, settling in New York for a short while before heading to Iowa. In the late 1850’s, Prestele moved to New York before joining the Union Army in 1861. He was wounded the following year at the battle of Antietam and remained in an army hospital for the rest of his two years in the military.

In 1863, he married his first wife Anne and moved his family to Illinois once he gained a commission to produce nurserymen’s plates of fruits and flowers. After rave reviews, he briefly went into business with L.B. Littlefield producing similar plates in 1871 which was around the time Anne passed away, leaving Prestele and their three children behind. Four years later, he married his second wife Susanna Gefaller and moved to Iowa to open a lithograph shop. In 1887, he was commission by the USDA to produce life-sized replicas of the native grape which fueled the decision to move to Arlington, Virginia, where he remained for the rest of his life. He passed away on August 16, 1895, but not before producing some of the most accurate and lifelike replicas of a wide range of fruits and flowers.