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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Past Exhibitions

Paintings and Drawings by Mary Grierson


7 April – 26 September 1975

This exhibition included more than 130 plant portraits in watercolor, pencil and ink by Mary Grierson (1912–2012), longtime staff artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The artwork ranged from anatomical drawings for plant monographs to portrayals of plants in habitat groups issued as art color prints or calendar illustrations. It was organized into categories representing projects carried out during Grierson's career, including botanical illustration and plant conservation. Among the selections were watercolors of living plants growing in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; life-size paintings of orchids; illustrations of tulip species collected from Asia, Asia Minor and the Middle East; depictions of British nature reserves; and paintings of endangered plants from all over the world.

A native of North Wales, Grierson served in World War II as an aerial photography interpreter. Later she worked for a cartographical firm, did freelance plant illustration and studied under John Nash, noted painter and illustrator. From 1960 to 1972 she was staff artist at Kew, which has perhaps the most famous collection of living plant specimens in the world. She was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1967, the same year in which she was commissioned to prepare designs of British flora for a series of British postage stamps. She spent two seasons in Israel and the Sinai, painting protected plants of that region for publication by the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority, and a season in Holland to do watercolor drawings for a book on the background and history of the tulip. The exhibition also included calendar illustrations commissioned for the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, the National Trust of Great Britain, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and the World Wildlife Fund. Grierson had been awarded three gold medals for artwork exhibited in Royal Horticultural Society shows. Her work was displayed in London by the Royal Society, the Linnean Society and the British Museum of Natural History; at the International Exhibition of Botanical Art in South Africa and the Frans Hals Museum in Holland; and in Tel-Aviv, Wales and Scotland. A catalogue accompanied the exhibition.