Marianne North: The Flower Huntress
July 1, 2014 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Where most other naturalists took samples, she used her paints to make a "unique snapshot of the world’s natural habitat more than 100 years ago." Although she didn't take up oil painting until she was nearly 40, North became a prolific painter of flora (and sometimes fauna) from around the world, often capturing not just the plant but the landscape around it.

North's travels took her around the world, including trips to the Americas, Caribbean, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Charles Darwin suggested she visit Australia; in return she brought him a local shrub for which he thanked her in a letter.

Her works are collected at
her gallery at Kew Gardens which has welcomed visitors since 1882. For those who can't travel to Kew, you can view many of her paintings in the online gallery or look at BBC presenter Katie Adie's slideshow on North's works.
posted by pointystick (12 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic. Thanks for sharing.
posted by effluvia at 7:28 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

These are amazing. The coastal landscapes are especially beautiful and remind me of a recent AskMe about what you think about to relax as you go to sleep. I sometimes think of calm, unpopulated, peaceful landscapes, and I may try thinking of these.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:51 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Great post! Her colors are wonderfully vibrant, but I love, love, love the very subdued (but incredibly sensuous and tactile) A Climbing Plant of Old Calabar (info).

Photo of her while painting: "Marianne North in Mrs Cameron's house in Ceylon" by Julia Margaret Cameron.
posted by taz at 9:56 AM on July 1, 2014

Thanks for the additional links — reading the article left me with a "More! More pictures!" feeling. Beautiful work!
posted by Lexica at 11:12 AM on July 1, 2014

Those are wonderful, and I love the Cameron photo, too.
posted by jaguar at 11:41 AM on July 1, 2014

These are incredible! What a life of adventure, talent, and determination.
posted by missmary6 at 12:25 PM on July 1, 2014

After reading The Signature of All Things earlier this year, I've been wondering about real life women naturalists, so I'm so pleased to be introduced to North. What an amazing life, and what beautiful work. I especially love the balance between the empty desolation and the defiantly green sense of upward growth in this painting of the Arizona desert.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 1:33 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been fascinated by naturalist paintings since seeing a beautiful one in mefite ocherdraco's apartment. Thanks!
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:56 PM on July 1, 2014

Great post about a great naturalist painter, but since Europe was awash in the fad of botanical prints, I'm not convinced that her paintings were anything unusual amongst naturalists (except perhaps in quality).
posted by IAmBroom at 9:27 PM on July 1, 2014

I was completely unaware of Marianne North, and enjoyed the beautiful pictures through the various links in this post; thank you.
posted by Wordshore at 1:23 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Marianne North is completely new to me and I found the article fascinating enough to want to visit Kew when the gallery reopens, so thank you for posting.

I think this was my favourite painting:

posted by threetwentytwo at 3:40 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I first saw this post I realized I remembered her from somewhere and ended up tracking down the source for me. Peter Raby covers her in his great Bright Paradise : Victorian Scientific Travellers and he ends the half-chapter or so devoted to her (the other half is about the likewise supercool Mary Kingsley) with the following summation : "she conveys in her writing, and in her painting, a sense of awe in response to the richness and diversity of the plants she recorded. She was a non-intrusive traveller and a non-collecting collector, providing an alternative approach to the ruthless, large-scale despoliation of the mid-century plant-hunters."
posted by reuvenc at 11:55 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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