Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Marianne North

I recently took some drawing classes. The instructor asked each of us about our artistic interests. I was the only one who said "Botanical Art". "Oh" said the instructor disdainfully and moved on to a more interesting student. If only Marianne North had been there to set him straight. As well as being the preeminent botanical artist of her time she had no patience with fools.


I have been snowed in for three days so I shall cheer myself up and you too, I hope, with some examples of Miss North's work.

Olearia argophylla
Marianne was forty before she began her odyssey of travel and painting. She produced 832 botanical paintings in thirteen years.

“Honeyflowers and Honeysuckers” 
Water colour had been the long standing medium for botanical art but in 1867 Marianne received instruction in oils and was enthralled by the effect. Later she met the Australian artist Ellis Rowan who used oils for her botanical work. Marianne was hooked and her delight in the medium is seen in her vivid works.

"Berry Bearing Tasmanian Shrubs"

Critics were not as impressed complaining that her colours were almost more vibrant than in life, and her images did not fully illustrate all the plant's distinguishing features. The depictions were, however, accurate and often placed the plant in context with other plants, insects and growing conditions which provided a wealth of information previously unrepresented in botanical art.

In 1882 Marianne donated her works and a new building for them to Kew Gardens in London. She hung all the works herself and the arrangement has been maintained to this day.

credit Jim Linwood
After an intense period of work and travel to North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia Marianne's health failed. In 1886 she retired to Mount House in Alderley, Gloucestershire and died four years later but not before creating a beautiful garden which gave her much pleasure.

Mount House garden

All art from the Marianne North collection at Kew Gardens
More info: plantexplorers.com Daily Telegraph article

13 comments:

  1. I'd rather see a picture of a flower than almost anything else. No drama, just the beauty that colors our world.

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    1. I have a book of garden photographs I look at after I get into bed-ensures a peaceful sleep.

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  2. I have to wonder what it is that causes people to criticize or "downplay" other's work. Jealousy, perhaps?
    I think that was one talented artist. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. A narrow outlook, I would say. I adore people with a passion for life regardless of their interests.

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  3. I love that kind of art, especially popular in Victorian times. Love the honeysuckle and honeysuckers picture

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    1. It was considered a respectable hobby for Victorian middle and upper class women.

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  4. Enjoyed this post very much - I too love Marianne North's work, and went to a lecture several years ago given by one of her decendants living in Gloucestershire. I also wrote a post about here which you might be interested to see.
    http://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/marianne-north-botanical-artist.html

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    1. I read your post and even though I have just written about MN it was a pleasure to see another piece about her.

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  5. Beautiful work! I always loved (and still do) botanical and zoological artwork. I especially enjoy it when the artist has made it theirs - instilling insects and birds as your Marianne North has done. Time to find another instructor. That one should be banned from teaching.

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    1. I had a bit of a crush on him up to that point.

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  6. Just beautiful. I will join the chorus and say I love botanical prints too. I hadn't known about Marianne North before this post. Thanks.

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    1. I'm glad you are back to blogging.

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  7. A beautiful and creative artist. I also love botanical renderings and sketches that you find in guides and textbooks. I kept a journal when I took a college class called "Trees and Shrubs." I minored in biology, and took quite a few botany classes. They were easier to get into than the zoology ones. - Margy

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