Earliest European view of Everest found in Kew Archives
23 February 2011
A sketch from the archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been identified as being one of the first recorded views of Mount Everest by a European. The sketch, by Sir Joseph Hooker, who was Director of Kew between 1865 and 1885, was drawn in situ in c.1848. It is currently on display in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art until 1 June 2011.
Despite being part of the Kew collection for many years, it was only identified at the end of last year, and is a hugely exciting find. It was discovered by a documentary maker who was using the Kew archives to conduct research on Sir Joseph Hooker.
According to current research, there are indications that suggest this illustration is the earliest representation of Mount Everest by a European. Whilst it is possible earlier illustrations or sketches may exist, attempts by Kew’s illustration team to locate anything have been fruitless.
Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says “We have a vast collection of illustrations here at Kew and curation is an ongoing job. It is always wonderful when we turn up a hidden gem of such historical importance. To our knowledge there are no other earlier representations of Everest by a European, in which case, this discovery could be one of the most important findings in Kew’s Archive.”
The Kew archives also hold a watercolour based on the Hooker sketch by Walter Hood-Fitch (1817-1892), which was produced two years later in c.1850.
Notes to Editors
Kew’s Library, Art and Archives
The collection of letters, books, maps, journals, botanical art and illustrations, manuscripts and photographs is one of the premier and largest sources of botanical information in the world. They are working collections, used by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s staff and visiting scientists, historians and art historians for research. Some items extend beyond Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s 250 year history, with the oldest items in the Library being printed herbals, or plant books, dating from the 15th century and the early years of printing.
The curators of the Library, Art and Archives are responsible for one of the largest collections of botanical art, both prints and original arts works in various media, in the world. The collection totals some 200,000 items. It ranges in date from the great masters of botanical illustration, such as GD Ehret, PJ Redouté and the Bauer brothers in the 18th century through to Walter Hood Fitch and Marianne North in the 19th century. A small fraction of these art works is on display in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery, which opened its doors to the public on 19 April 2008. The Marianne North Gallery, which is joined to The Shirley Sherwood Gallery by a linking gallery, is exclusively dedicated to the art of the intrepid, globe-trotting Victorian artist. The result of her epic journeys to far-flung corners of the world can be seen in the gallery named after her.
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For more information on Sir Joseph Hooker, please go to: http://www.kew.org/heritage/people/hooker_j.html
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