Marianne North Gallery: About the Gallery
The Marianne North Gallery has now reopened and is linked to the contemporary Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
After a successful exhibition of her paintings in a London gallery in 1879, Marianne North conceived the idea of presenting them to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She also generously offered to provide a suitable building in which to display them.
Marianne North's architect friend James Fergusson designed a simple rectangular building with a verandah around the outside that mirrored Marianne's feelings for India. Its design is also reminiscent of a Greek temple, in response to Fergusson's own theories and ideas on high-level natural lighting in Greek temples, seen here in the form of large clerestory windows, high above the paintings.
On one corner was the single-storey studio for the artist's use and on another a two-storey 'flat' intended by Marianne North as accommodation for a resident gardener.
Two double-height gallery spaces allowed for the display of the oil paintings and Miss North herself took charge of the hanging over a one year period, ‘fitting and framing, patching and sorting my pictures’ — arranging them in geographical order over a dado of 246 vertical strips of different timbers.
Astonishingly, Marianne North then embarked on yet further journeys. Just two months after the opening of her Gallery, she travelled to South Africa, where many more paintings were created. In 1883, she was in the Seychelles and in 1884, despite ill-health, she was painting plants in Chile.
These additional works were accommodated in the Gallery by an extension that was built in 1883, bringing the total of the paintings displayed to an amazing 832, representing over 900 species of plants — a unique memorial to an equally unique woman.
Today the Gallery has been beautifully restored and refurbished – allowing visitors to see the Gallery in all its glory once more.
Now reopened and linked to the contemporary Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, the two galleries form a major attraction in the Gardens, each a fitting reminder of the work and generosity of two remarkable female benefactors.
Shop at Kew
- Buy a Marianne North souvenir
- A selection of beautiful Marianne North prints are now available to buy online.
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