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Inspiring Kew

Come and explore, through a myriad of media and works, how the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been a source of creative inspiration since its formation as the original ‘physic’ garden in 1759 right through to today where it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kew’s horticulture and stunning living collections have motivated past and present day visitors and Kew itself has taken inspiration from artists and writers whose illustrations and works of art have enriched Kew’s owns collections.

Artwork, photography, fashion, literature and more will fill The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art portraying the unique manner in which the Gardens at Kew have inspired and taken inspiration from so many sources. It will showcase both contemporary and historic paintings such as a recently acquired and never previously exhibited painting of a rose produced by Princess Charlotte at Kew in 1789, alongside Laurence Hill’s extraordinary ten metre image: Fritillaria a Family Portrait, 2014.

The importance of botanical artists both past and present will be demonstrated by both historical botanical paintings from the Endeavour voyage to Australia of 1768, as well as contemporary illustrations from Lucy Smith’s 2001 replica journey. Three historic works on loan from the Natural History Museum, including one sketch painted on the original voyage by Sydney Parkinson, will be displayed alongside some of Lucy Smith’s illustrations and a selection of her stunning black and white scientific illustrations, some featuring newly discovered species.


Kew’s cutting edge scientific work will also be highlighted in this diverse and explorative exhibition. Kew’s active involvement in the movement of key plants around the world such as rubber, coffee and quinine will be explored through stunning botanical paintings, while beautiful illustrations of significant plants used today in plant derived cosmetics will also be on display.

With both science and horticulture being explored through this multi faceted exhibition, iconic buildings at Kew such as The Palm House and the Pagoda will be represented in Edward Bawden’s fresh and colourful prints.

Rachel Pedder-Smith’s astonishing five metre long Herbarium Specimen Painting, previously shown in the gallery in 2012, will be on display. The painting inspired Liberty Art Fabrics to produce a print which Vivienne Westwood used in her Spring-Summer 2013 Red Label collection. One of the dresses from this particular collection will be presented in the Floral Eve print alongside Rachel’s painting.


Inspired by Kew

Paintings that inspired the now world famous Shirley Sherwood Collection will be on display in the gallery showing the evolution of Dr Shirley Sherwood’s passion for botanical art and her connection to Kew which started from the age of 13 after her first visit to the Herbarium. Pandora Sellar’s Laelia tenebrosa, the first botanical watercolour that Dr. Sherwood bought from Kew Gardens Gallery in 1990 will be on display alongside other works purchased from Kew and from some of the artists she sought out on her travels around the world.



Notes to Editors:

For images visit Kewimages. Please contact Kew’s press office for a username and password.

For more information on the festival, or any of Kew’s work, please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world.

Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5 million visits every year.

Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009.

Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world.

Kew receives approximately half its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.