Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marianne North: an extraordinary artist visits Queensland circa 1880

Marian North (1830-1890) was born in Hastings England and travelled constantly with her father, an MP for Hastings, from 1855 after her mother died - resolving to paint the flora of distant countries after his death in 1860. A gallery for her work was built at Kew Gardens, London - opening in 1882. She travelled to Australia in 1880, apparently on the urging of family friend Charles Darwin. She was caught up in a most fascinating time in Botanical history and found herself with modest but substantial enough funds to do the extensive travel she became so well-known for through her Gallery that still stands and is a very popular destination for visitors. A remarkable life indeed!

Inside the Marianne North Gallery. Copyright © RBG Kew

This gallery interior hints at the massive collection of over 800 works she made in her lifetime. I came across her work on the site under collections, specifically Art images.
It should be noted: she was far more likely to paint plant specimen in their natural context rather than to take a plant sample away from its habitat and then render it scientifically and clinically on a white page. By all accounts her work never suffered scientific inaccuracy even if she was working in situ in all kinds of climatic and geographical locations. This is cause for some serious thought - the work was relied on for its usefulness and accuracy in an age when cameras were not available for documentation and research purposes.

'Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit of a Queensland Tree, and Black Coc. Copyright © RBGKew

'Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit of a Qld Tree and Black Cockatoo'.
Oil on Board Notes: this bird alone has a beak strong enough to crack open the nut of the Macadamia tree. 

No. 767. 'Study of the Bunya-Bunya'.. Copyright © RBGKew

No 767. 'Study of the bunya-bunya.'
Click on title for notes by artist on this tree, its importance to indigeneous people, the seeds etc. On an earlier post I referred also to similar notes about cultural significance of this species. Read also about Bon-yi season here on the Homage to the Seed blog archives.

'Nest of the Coachman's Whip Bird, in a Bunya-Bunya, Queensland'. Copyright © RBGKew

'Nest of the coachman's whip Bird, in a Bunya-Bunya, Queensland.
Oil on Board. Notes: The trees were full of these hanging nests of the Psophodes crepitans, made of the freshest green moss, and ornamented with the feathers of the common red and blue parrots.

'View in the Botanic Garden, Brisbane, Queensland. Marianne Nort. Copyright © RBGKew

'View of the Botanic garden, Brisbane, Queensland.
Oil on board. Flowers of the Large Water Lily Nymphaea gigantea - water lily peculiar to Australia.

"Flowers of Angel's Trumpet"
Brugmansia arborea 
by Marianne NorthMarianne North at her easel near 
Grahamstown in South Africa 1882

For a brief but interesting account  of her life go to plant - an interesting site with background into the early days of plant exploration - ancient Egypt, Babylon, Paradelos and China up to the 20th century. The Golden Age of Botany is referred to - perhaps a useful outline for a overview.

Visit for further information about the gallery named in her honour and other work in her collection. If you click on Collections at the top of the website you can investigate the extraordinary range of collections of all kinds related to Botany. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...