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Rory McEwen - The Colours of Reality

Joanne Yeomans
10 May 2013

A new exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art showcases botanical illustration from artist Rory McEwen, along with his other artistic talents.

We are all very excited to introduce our new exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art detailing the life and work of Rory McEwen, a talented artist, botanical illustrator and musician. Rory McEwen The Colours of Reality, will exhibit work from the 1950s up to the late 1980s detailing his aptitude for botanical illustration, music and poetry with works loaned from his family and from other private collectors.

Radcliffe Square by Rory McEwen

Radcliffe Square by Rory McEwen

The new exhibition is accompanied by a display from Dr Shirley Sherwood’s collection which looks at how Rory McEwen has influenced a new generation of botanical artists. Rory McEwen’s Legacy: Artists Influenced by him in the Shirley Sherwood Collection has been curated by Dr Shirley Sherwood and will feature work from artists such as Kate Nessler, Annie Farrer, Pandora Sellars and Celia Hegadüs who were all influenced by Rory McEwen in some way. Their work will be displayed next to some of McEwen’s own paintings which are also in the Shirley Sherwood Collection.

Courgette Tendrils II by Annie Farrer

Courgette Tendrils II by Annie Farrer from the Shirley Sherwood Collection

McEwen himself was influenced by great botanical painters of the past, most notably Pierre-Joseph Redouté who was painting at the turn of the nineteenth century. McEwen saw Redouté’s ‘Roses’ in person when he was twenty years old as he knew Wilfred Blunt while Blunt was writing his book 'The Art of Botanical Illustration'. McEwen’s works blend art and science together as they are botanically accurate along with being artistic. While taking influence from old masters such as Redouté, McEwen was also affected by contemporary art movements. McEwen worked on vellum, a traditional material. He liked the smoothness of the surface and using very small strokes of dry watercolour he created botanically accurate depictions but simultaneously he was aware of the whole canvas perhaps taking inspiration from Minimalism, and the importance of negative space, making the subject matter look like it’s floating surrounded by bare vellum.

 

Gingko Leaf East 61st Street New York by Rory McEwen

Gingko Leaf East 61st Street New York by Rory McEwen from the Shirley Sherwood Collection

Another aspect of McEwen’s botanical illustration career that sets him aside was his custom of recording imperfections in his natural subject matter. He painted objects such as fallen leaves, which would normally be discarded, and recorded what he saw accurately to create ‘plant portraits’, making the subject matter individual. His depictions of plants were never too stylized or formal but retained the botanical accuracy required for the art form while being interjected with artistic influences of the twentieth century. McEwen’s artwork developed and changed throughout the course of his career. He altered his subject matter and compositions, experimented with collage and sculpture, and continued to take influence from many diverse sources. We hope you’ll come and visit the exhibition to find out more about the life and work of Rory McEwen.
 

Rory McEwen with Auriculas

Rory McEwen with his Auricula paintings

 

The book to accompany this exhibition is available in hardback or paperback from the Kew online shop.

Rory McEwen The Colours of Reality is on display in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art from 11 May to 22 September 2013. Rory McEwen’s Legacy: Artists Influenced by him in the Shirley Sherwood Collection will be on display until January 2014. The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is open daily from 9.30am, please contact the gallery on 0208 332 3622 for any enquiries.
 


 

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