Margaret Mee: Explorer/Conservationist, Botanist/Scientific Illustrator

Bromelia anticantha Bertol. Cultivated in São Paulo. Procured from Minas Gerais. Margaret Mee, 1964. Permission for reproduction received from Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Rare Book Collection, Washington, D.C., Online Exhibits, Highlights from the Collections, Margaret Mee, The Paintings.

Margaret Mee, née Brown (1909-1988), was a British contemporary artist considered to be one of the most remarkable women of the twentieth century.1 She was referred to as the premier female explorer of the Brazilian rainforest and an outstanding botanical artist. Her voice was one of the first courageous ones to be raised against the exploitative destruction of Amazonia and she spoke for its conservation until her death.

Wang Hao-t’ing: Illustrator for the Central Asiatic Natural History Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History

Wang Hao-t’ing (using the Chinese naming order with family name first) was a Chinese artist who was commissioned to accompany the American Museum of Natural History’s (AMNH) Third Asiatic Expedition in 1921-1926 to document frogs, snakes, salamanders, and lizards in the region. Hao-t’ing painted beautiful, strikingly realistic watercolor paintings of Continue Reading

Joyce Allan – Australian Conchologist and Artist

Joyce Allan at work, Australian Museum circa 1930. Australian Museum Archives AMS502. Reproduction Rights Australian Museum.

Illustrator, conchologist (i.e., one who studies mollusk shells) and museum curator Joyce K. Allan (1896-1966) was the first woman to be employed as a scientist by the Australian Museum and the first elected female fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. A Fascination with Shells Allan was Continue Reading

Olive Muriel Pink: Artist, Conservationist, Aboriginal Rights Activist

Olive Muriel Pink would spent a decade conducting research on the eastern Arrernte of Alice Springs and the Warlpiri of the Tanami region. She grew to be a passionate activist for aboriginal rights (in fact, historian Julie Marcus suggests that Pink ultimately left academia because she felt it was not serving her activist goals).

Ethel King: Fish Artist Extraordinaire

Preparation of a Queensland groper by Ethel King 1926. Photographer George C. Clutton. Australian Museum Archives AMS351_V09193. Reproduction Rights Australian Museum

In the 1920’s a group of women artists, working mostly on commission and in insecure, part-time positions, helped create a new visual identity for the Australian Museum. They used their training in applied art and design to produce innovative and colorful natural history dioramas, and their illustrations of museum specimens Continue Reading

Amanda Almira Newton: Botanical Illustrator for the US Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705

Amanda Almira Newton was a prolific illustrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who specialized in drawing watercolors of fruit. She contributed more than 1200 watercolor paintings to the USDA and also made more than 300 wax models of fruits. Her precise and detailed drawings were especially important in Continue Reading

John Tyley: Caribbean Botanical Illustrator in a Colonial World

John Tyley, watercolor on paper of [Fruit], ca. 1802 John Tyley worked as a botanical illustrator at the historic St. Vincent Botanical Garden in the late 1700s creating exquisite depictions of tropical plants.¹ Aside from the beautiful and detailed illustrations he left behind, little is known of this native Caribbean Continue Reading

Maria Sibylla Merian: Botanical Illustrator, Entomologist, and Explorer Ahead of Her Time

Illustration of a Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) and a False Coral Snake (Anilius scytale) (1701–1705) by Maria Sibylla Merian, watercolor and gloss over etching on parchment   “Ever since my youth I have been engaged in the examination of insects. …I set aside my social life and devoted all my Continue Reading