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Mary Grierson botanical artist


Image: Studio Botanika

Mary Grierson, who has died at age 99, embarked on a beautiful career as a botanical artist when she was middle aged.

— and then only by accident. In 1960, while applying for a post organising exhibitions at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, she proffered a portfolio of her paintings of wild flowers (executed as a hobby in her spare time) to her interviewer. He took one look at them and told her she would be much better employed as the Herbarium’s resident artist.

Thus it was that Mary Grierson began painting the plants which had been collected on botanical expeditions, and which needed to be recorded in detail.

She worked from actual plants, in natural light, in watercolours, always striving for exact accuracy and also for composition. She tread a delicate line. Exact as they were, her paintings seem to evoke personality.

The public was enthusiastic, and galleries soon noticed.

In her trusty Morris 1100, Mary Grierson travelled from the north of Scotland to Portland Bill in Dorset. Where feasible, she would take plants back to her flat in Richmond-upon-Thames, and work on the pictures there.

She illustrated many books, among them The Country Life Book of Orchids, An English Florilegium, which featured 150 of her paintings, and A Hawaiian florilegium. The finest collection of her work is at Kew.

During the Second World War, Mary joined the WAAF, and served with the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

She has not really said farewell. She has left us her flowers.

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