I really enjoy botanical art; at its best it combines some of the best characteristics of landscape and still life. Too often, however, botanical artists seem to feel that they must restrain themselves to timidly rendered watercolors, almost devoid of individual artistic expression, lest their efforts be considered less than scientific (how different from scientific illustrations of animals, particularly paleontological reconstruction art).
A notable exception to this is Marianne North, a Victorian English botanical artist, who also painted landscapes and occasionally still life.
North was also a biologist. She traveled extensively, and not only recorded exotic plant species, but the landscapes she encountered in India, Japan, Ceylon, Brazil, Canada and the US, among other places.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London houses an extensive collection of her work in the Marianne North Gallery, which it declares is “the only permanent solo exhibition by a female artist in Britain”. There is a gallery of prints on the Kew site (you have to click through to the detail page, then click on the image again for the large version).
A large selection of her work can be viewed online on the BBC Your Paintings site. There is a book available, Marianne North: A very Intrepid Painter (also here).
Not only did North defy convention in her travels and lifestyle, her work is notable for her use of oil in her detailed representation of plant species, rather than the more conventional approaches in watercolor or gouache.
2 Replies to “Marianne North”
~ Malini Roy: “Marianne North’s Visions of India”
September 18 2013
The British Library holds one of the richest archives of prints, drawings and photographs from South Asia.
Having read the book some years ago, it was a real joy to visit the refurbished gallery at Kew and see her paintings displayed almost floor to ceiling. An amazing output of work despite what must have been some very challenging areas to travel to, let alone paint such detailed studies.
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