Brazil: a powerhouse of plants – Margaret Mee, pioneering artist and her legacy
20 February 2016 to 29 August 2016, 10am to 5pm
This exhibition focuses on Brazil, highlighting Brazilian artists from the contemporary Shirley Sherwood Collection, as well as artists who have been inspired and influenced by Brazilian flora. The exhibition highlights the beauty and breadth of Brazilian flora as well as the work of Margaret Mee and her legacy where she has influenced a generation of contemporary artists.
Tour of the exhibition
Joseph Banks and other old masters
Alongside works from Dr Sherwood’s collection there are illustrations from Kew’s Collection on display. Plates from Joseph Banks’ Florilegium are exhibited as naturalist Banks was a part of Captain Cook’s first HMS Endeavour voyage of the South Pacific and the plants collected are chronicled by the Banks Florilegium. The voyage stopped in Rio de Janeiro in the winter of 1768 and here Banks completed scientific descriptions of the local flora and drawings by Sydney Parkinson were made. These are being shown alongside original drawings of orchids by Victorian botanical artist Sarah Ann Drake which were selected and published in 1838 by botanist and orchidologist John Lindley in ‘Sertum orchidaceum: a wreath of the most beautiful orchidaceous flowers’. Works by other old masters from the Kew Collection such as Walter Hood Fitch and Sydenham Edwards are also on display.
British botanical artist Margaret Mee features prominently in the exhibition due to her time spent in Brazil painting the flora of the Amazon. Mee moved to Brazil in 1952 to teach English and in 1958 became a botanical artist for the Instituto de Botanica in São Paulo. The paintings by Mee exhibited are from both Dr Sherwood’s collection and the Kew Collection and displayed alongside items from her journeys including her paintbrushes, paint pots and sketchbooks.
Margaret Mee in Brazil and her influence on other artists
Margaret Mee’s time in Brazil and her work has influenced many contemporary botanical artists which feature in Dr Sherwood’s collection. Paintings from artists such as Patricia Villela and the Demonte family, who have travelled extensively in Brazil and South America, are exhibited alongside artists who have been taught by botanical artist Christabel King under the Margaret Mee Fellowship Programme at Kew. The programme enabled Brazilian botanical artists to study in the UK as well as supporting forest conservation in Brazil. Many of the artists involved in the programme are now in Dr Sherwood’s collection and include Malena Barretto, Alice de Rezende and Fatima Zagonel. Like Margaret Mee, Brazilian botanical artist Alvaro Nunes has spent time travelling and working in remote areas of Brazil. Particularly interested in the Brazilian savannah, Alvaro has painted the native trees with their fruits in the savannah, Amazonia and the Pantanal. Many of his works in the Shirley Sherwood Collection will be on display in this exhibition.
Discover more about early Brazilian explorers and plant hunters in the latest Library, Art and Archives blog