Monday, 29 August 2011

Marianne North - Botanical Artist

Marianne North was one of those intrepid Victorian women. She travelled the globe in her quest to seek out flora to satisfy her passion to paint them.  In 1871, and already aged 40, she spent the next 13 years travelling, and so began her incredible collection of nearly 900 paintings.
She visited America, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Java, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles, Borneo and Chile. Often she was away for long periods at a time. She spent 18 months visiting various regions of India; in Brazil she spent 13 months travelling into the interior and making long and arduous journeys across very rough terrain. 
Her name is perhaps more familiar in Brazil than in the UK, where they often use her flower paintings to adorn their stamps.  Perhaps the main reason for her name being unknown to many here is because she painted for her own delight and pleasure. She was descended from Lord North, Prime Minister 1770 - 82, and she received a large legacy from her own father when he died.  Her paintings never appear on the market, she had no need to sell them, so she donated them to Kew Gardens. There they have a special Marianne North Gallery building in the grounds, which is full of her paintings. The building has recently been restored at a cost of over 3 million pounds, and is well worth a visit.
Interior of one of the gallery rooms before restoration.

Nepenthes northiana - named after Marianne
Olearia argophylla

images via Wikipedia


  1. Hello Rosemary:
    As you write here, a very remarkable and talented woman and one of those very single minded Victorians who could afford the luxury of developing a particular talent and interest and yet were most generous with it. Until now we did not know that she was related to the Prime Minister, Lord North, nor did we know of the restoration of the Gallery at Kew.

    A most interesting post.

  2. Hello Jane and Lance - I always think that these women were extraordinary. They travelled wearing their long dresses, and hats. Their trunks and portmanteaux full of all the clothing that etiquette required; no jeans, t-shirts and rucksack for them.

  3. Dear Rosemary,
    What a talented woman Marianne North was..... and, what a fantastic life she lived particularly for a woman living in Victorian times.....and doesn't she look like Queen Victoria ? Her paintings are wonderful.
    Many thanks for coming over to see me and commenting. I also remember the rag and bone man and the coalman coming round and young boys running behind their horses with a bucket and spade !
    Enjoy the bank holiday. XXXX

  4. I have read of Marianne North before and am in awe of what she accomplished. Were I to travel to England, I would make a trip to the Kew Gardens specifically to see North's colorful jewels.

    I would mention to other readers and commentors that it's well worth clicking on the image of the Kew Gardens display for an enlargement and better peek at details.

  5. Dear Jacqueline - thanks for your comments. Yes, she does resemble Queen Victoria, and her paintings are lovely. Do drop by again, it was nice to hear from you.

  6. Dear Mark- I am very impressed that you know of her, your art knowledge is extensive. I will take on board what you have said re: clicking on the photo and do it straight away - thanks

  7. Happy Birthday to you too! Hope your day brings lots of smiles and good wishes!

  8. Dear Alix - many thanks, I have the family coming, so must get the roast chicken on.

  9. I like your blog very much. Beautiful work.

  10. Hello Fotokarusellen - Thank you for becoming a follower, and also for your lovely comment.

  11. Hello Rosemary, your post are so interesting that I go to older posts of you. Reading this post I am supprised that in these days women did travel and paint following things wich were in there harts. I thought it was someting of the 20th century. How lovely this paintings must look in real. I put it on my wishlist to see some day. When you see this paintings and the photo's people make these day, I hope you will excuse me, but sometimes by example a photo of a bird is so perfectionezed like the bird is dead in put in place. With paintings there is speaking energie. A very lovely speaking to my hart post.
    gr. Marijke

    1. Hello Marijke - I am so delighted you found this post and that it gave you so much pleasure. I really think that Marianne was an extraordinary women, though a wealthy one, which enabled her to do these travels. However, travelling through the jungle in her long Victorian dress must have been a challenge. She would then set up her easel and paint, quite amazing.
      You must visit the gallery at Kew Gardens, if ever you get the chance. I am sure you would fall in love with them as I have done. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  12. Wonderful woman! I had to learn about her in 1980 when I decided for my studies. It is a story that I think some time to tell you.Thank you so mush for these information. I am proud that I have honour to touch with you !

    1. Dear Olympia - I am so delighted that you know about her already - that is an extra reason for you to visit the wonderful gallery full of her marvellous work.

  13. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a pity that she has remained fairly unknown to the world because her paintings look incredible; so real - like a photograph!
    Glad I came her to check it out and also good to know that she did visit a large part of the world and that for her days is incredible!


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