Marianne North Gallery

Born in Hastings in 1830, Marianne North devoted her life to travelling the world and painting plants.

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Marianne North Gallery - after restoration

Marianne North Gallery


Please note that The Marianne North Gallery will be closed on the 24 February 2014.

Did you know?

  • On her first day working on the project, paper conservator Rachael Smith discovered a hidden painting. It had not been seen for over 120 years - since Marianne North covered it with its backing board. It took 16 hours to uncover half the image.
  • Marianne decorated the doors and their surrounds in the Gallery. She had originally requested of Joseph Hooker that visitors to the gallery be served, “tea or coffee and biscuits (nothing else) … at a fair price” but Hooker had not allowed this. She therefore painted coffee over one door and tea over the other.

About the artist, Marianne North

Although she had no formal training in illustration, and was rather unconventional in her methods, Marianne North had a natural artistic talent and was very prolific. She inherited her interest in travelling from her father, the MP Frederick North. Her political connections served her well, providing her with letters of introduction to ambassadors, viceroys, rajahs, governors and ministers all over the world.

Marianne undertook her first journey, to the United States, Canada and Jamaica, in 1871. This was followed by an eight-month stay in Brazil, during which time she completed more than 100 paintings. She tended to depict landscapes and natural habitats rather than individual plants. One picture, from Brazil, shows a colony of the black, red and yellow butterfly Heliconius erato phyllis roosting on a palm leaf. Another shows Mt Fujiyama, Japan, framed by the climbing shrub Wisteria sinensis.

Marianne travelled to Japan across the American continent in 1875, returning two years later via Sarawak, Java and Sri Lanka. Today her paintings from these places provide an important historical record. Some places are still recognisable from her paintings. For example, stands of the giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus) that she painted in 1877 at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, can still be seen thriving in the gardens today.

After exhibiting her paintings in a London gallery in 1879, Marianne had the idea of showing them at Kew. She wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker, offering to build a gallery if he would agree to display her life’s work in it. The gallery was duly built in a mix of classical and colonial styles. After a visit to Australia and New Zealand, Marianne spent a year arranging her paintings inside the building. It opened to the public in 1882.

Gallery restoration

In 2008, Kew began restoring the Marianne North Gallery, with a £1.8 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant and additional financial support from other donors. The project involved making much needed structural repairs to the building, which re-opended to the public in October 2009.

Each of Marianne’s 833 paintings, depicting more than 900 species of plants, were also restored and conserved. The conservation project started in the newly built Preservation studio in the Herbarium at Kew in 2008 and took two years to complete. Treatments that Kew conservationists used to do this, ranged from removing the acidic backing board which Marianne stuck to every oil painting to make them rigid, to working with a microscope to gather, reposition and stick down tiny flakes of paint, which have come loose in the fluctuating humidity.

Things to look out for

There are two touch-screen monitors in place at the centre of the Gallery, allowing visitors to zoom in on 50 of the paintings and read extracts from Marianne’s memoirs. In the artist’s studio, visitors can view a set of ‘then and now’ photos. These show how the landscapes in four paintings – in Jamaica, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Tasmania – have dramatically changed in the intervening years.

Kids’ mission

  • Can you spot the following in Marianne’s paintings?

1) Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) - (Marianne called it a 'Puzzle Monkey Tree')

2) Coco de mer nuts (Lodoicea maldivica)

3) Cork trees (Quercus suber)

  • Can you also find each of them in the Gardens? Clue: you’ll need to look next to the Orangery, in the Palm House and in the Mediterranean Garden.
  • Name at least one plant that now bears Marianne’s name.

22 comments on 'Marianne North Gallery'

Terry Love says

29/05/2013 1:37:33 PM | Report abuse

Simply stunning. I come to Kew regularly to take photographs but I don't mind one bit having to put my camera away and not take pictures in the 2 galleries. The Marianne North gallery in particular is a wonderful place, with the walls covered in beautiful paintings. The space itself has such a calming atmosphere, best enjoyed by me when it quiet so I can absorb the feeling, surrounded by her works of art. I'm torn between wanting more people to appreciate it and wanting to keep it quiet to enjoy experiencing it myself.

Kew Feedback Team says

15/03/2013 3:16:39 PM | Report abuse

Marion, thank you for your kind comments about the Marianne North Gallery. It is wonderful to hear how much you enjoy visiting on a regular basis.

Kew Feedback Team says

15/03/2013 3:14:31 PM | Report abuse

Martha, thank you for telling us about your blog and how Tenerife still remembers the life of Marianne North and her visit to the island. We have passed your comment on to the Marianne North Gallery team, as they will be very interested to hear your news.

Marta von Poroszlay says

14/03/2013 6:51:53 PM | Report abuse

I´m an artist from Tenerife who made a bust of Marianne North, situated in Puerto de la Cruz. In memory of her visit to the Island. You can see it on my webside

Marion Ellis says

10/03/2013 4:51:51 PM | Report abuse

Whenever I'm in London I recharge my senses by visiting her gallery. And each time am filled with admiration for her intrepid spirit - and my South African heart is thrilled when seeing our unique flora.

Kew Feedback Team says

10/07/2012 2:53:53 PM | Report abuse

Hi John, Thanks for your comment below. You can view some of the works from our Marianne North gallery online -- here's the link for you to copy and paste into your browser.

John says

06/07/2012 2:10:53 PM | Report abuse

It seems a bit crazy that you talk about great stuff like 'then & now' pictures but as far as I can see you can't access them on the website, which must immediately cut off 99% of your audience

Isabelle says

08/04/2012 3:19:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm delighted that the MN Gallery has been brought back to life: I can't wait to see it. Brilliant idea the "then and now" photos. Although, sadly, I'm sure the places are nowhere near as green as they once would have been.

Kew Feedback Team says

08/06/2011 11:51:57 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting your question Marij. Kew doesn't offer coffee and biscuits in the gallery, but the Pavilion restaurant is only a short three minute walk away. Find out more here -

Marij says

05/06/2011 7:13:54 PM | Report abuse

And can you now get tea or coffee and biscuits in the gallery?

Kew Feedback Team says

05/03/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Dear Margaret, the opening times for the Gallery are the same as the Gardens. For April this is 9.30am to 5.30pm. However, we do advise you check the website next year for confirmation that this has remained the same.

Margaret Shields says

03/03/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

I am hoping to visit the Kew gardens April 2011.I hope there will be Marianne North paintings to view. Can you tell me the opening times please.

Kew Feedback Team says

23/02/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Hi David, there are four paintings in the main sequence that are original, as well as all the paintings in the upper gallery. Essentially the ones on display are oil on canvas or oil on paper on canvas. The facsimiles cover all of the oil on paper on board.

David Ward says

22/02/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Reading your explanation of the MN Gallery, it would seem that there are none of her paintings on display till Oct 2010, just facsimiles. Am I correct please?

Claudia Bello Plaza says

16/01/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Hi, I´m from Chile, Naturalist Photographer and I´m planning a trip to Nahuelbuta Mountain where Marianne planned her last trip to Chile for painting the Araucaria araucana. I have been in Kew two times and I had never knew about her paintings, I just knew from her in Chile buy a coincidence of a publication of a book of her paintings she did in Chile. In her diary she explain very well her experience in the way to paint the Araucaria. My trip will be the 5th of februery 2010. You will see my pictures in

S.L. Sprecher says

16/01/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

I find that "A Vision of Eden: the life and work of Marianne North" is the perfect bedside-table book for anyone who loves plants. Reading it is like taking a little stroll into the most delightful garden. It gives a calming, relaxing and joyous contact with beauty that leads to peaceful sleep.

Kew DMT says

07/01/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment. Without seeing your painting it's hard to say - the best thing to do is take it to an art dealer. Marianne produced many paintings throughout her career and explored many parts of the world too. Why don't you post a picture of the painting that you bought on our Facebook page so we can take a closer look. Is it signed?

noe says

25/12/2009 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

I bought a painting of Marianne at a flea market. I just want to know if the painting I bought is from this Marianne.The paintig a bucket with i thing are tomatoes.thankyou.


18/11/2009 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

It would be useful to have this gallery shown on the interactive map with a link to this page, similar to the other main buildings.

Digital Media Team says

18/11/2009 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment. You'll be pleased to hear that we're making some enhancements to the interactive map over the next few months. The Marianne North Gallery will be added to the map!

Sheila Crowson says

29/10/2009 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

It was very hard to dig out any information about the re-opening of the gallery on your website.

judy bell says

20/10/2009 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

Where is the newly refurbed gallery on your site? I can only find this old information. Is it open and if now when is it opening please?

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