15 November 2013

Five Fact Friday: Plant Hunters - Marianne North

Some plant hunters went in search of plants in the name of science, some in the name of gardening, and some like the great Marianne North in the name of art; as we shall see below.

  1. Born in Hastings, on the 24 October 1830, Marianne North was educated at home. She originally trained as a vocalist, but her voice failed. This allowed Marianne to concentrate on her painting. She died on 30 August 1890 in Gloucestershire having lived a life most of us can only dream of.
  2. She made many trips to Kew Gardens to paint and draw some of their rare plant specimens. She was encouraged by the director of Kew Gardens at the time, William Hooker, the father of plant hunter Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
  3. She travelled extensively with her parents. She continued to travel with her father after her mother passed away. After her father died Marianne made the decision to travel on her own, with the intention of travelling to tropical countries to paint the 'peculiar vegetation in its natural abundant luxuriance'.
  4. North was a very active artist and travelled deep into the areas that she visited ranging from Canada to Australia and Japan to India. She sent her oil paintings to Sir Joseph Hooker at Kew. Marianne later wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker suggesting that she would be happy to build a gallery within the grounds at Kew, if he would agree to display her life's work. He did agree and since 1882 her wonderful work has been on show. In 2008 a lottery grant allowed Kew to restore the Marianne North Galley and all 833 of her canvasses.
  5. Marianne painted 900 species of plant and in great scientific detail. Many of her paintings were highly regarded, such as her depiction of Banksia attenuata. There are also plants named in her honour, including Nepenthes northiana, which can been seen in the painting below. The genus Northia was named in her honour by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker in his Icones Plantarum (1884).

One of the many gorgeous illustrations by Marianne North.

Harrison, L. (2012) RHS Latin for Gardeners, London, Octopus Publishing Group

Click images for copyright information.

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