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Marianne North: A very intrepid painter
by Michelle Payne

Marianne North book cover courtesy Kew Gardens Kew’s new book, Marianne North: A very intrepid painter, on Victorian artist Marianne North celebrates her life, adventures and stunning botanical paintings.

In 1871, Marianne North set off on the first of many overseas voyages, desiring to see the tropics and paint ‘plants in their homes’. Over the next 14 years, Marianne visited 16 countries, often for extended periods and in extremely varied circumstances. While not the first or the only Victorian adventuress, Marianne is set apart from the others by the extraordinary collection of oil paintings she produced and the gallery she established to display them.

The Marianne North Gallery, situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is home to all 832 of her oil paintings, and, even today, remains the only permanent solo exhibition by a female artist in Britain. Designed by architect James Fegusson, the gallery opened to the public in 1882.

In 2008 a major restoration project was undertaken, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund as well as support from other donors. The Grade II listed gallery reopened in October 2009, having undergone much needed structural repairs. In addition, all 833 of Marianne’s paintings have been restored at Kew by a specialist team of conservators. The conservation project has unearthed a previously unknown painting, hidden sketches, and evidence of the artist’s method and paints used.

This new book explores Marianne’s early life and the many travels she made around the world, drawn mainly from her own published memoirs. Recurring themes of the painting collection are explored, as are the history of the gallery and the recent restoration of the building and paintings. The text is fully illustrated throughout with her beatiful oil paintings of plants.

Author Michelle Payne has worked for several years as an editor in the publishing department of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She holds an MA in Twentieth Century Literature and its Intellectual Contexts, awarded by the University of London.

Marianne North: A very intrepid painter
By Michelle Payne
ISBN: 978 1 84246 430 4
Publisher: Kew Publishing
Publication date: 01 March, 2011
Paperback with fold out flaps
96 pages; full colour paintings throughout

Kew Gardens:
Visitor information: 020 8332 5655 or
Web: Kew Gardens
For photos and more on the gardens see our article Kew Gardens

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