12 November 2019

In Pictures: Highlights of Modern Masterpieces

We round up the must-see pieces of the new exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

By Ellen McHale

A painting from the Modern Masterpieces exhibition

Our new exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery showcases some exquisite examples of botanical art.

Split into geographical regions, the exhibition brings together a diverse range of work from across the world. Here are our must-see highlights. 

Strelitzia nicolai by Beverly Allen

This stunning painting is not to be missed, with its delicate colour palette and striking form. 

Strelitzia nicolai, commonly known as the giant white bird of paradise or wild banana, is a species of banana-like plants. Originating from South Africa, they can reach heights of six metres.  

The painting was exhibited at Botanica in Sydney in 2004 and is featured in the book accompanying the exhibition ‘The Shirley Sherwood Collection – Modern Masterpieces of Botanical Art’, which you can pre-order from our shop.

A painting from the Modern Masterpieces exhibition
Modern Masterpieces, 'Strelitzia nicolai' by Beverly Allen © Shirley Sherwood Collection

The colours of Brittlegills Russula sp. by Alexander Viazmensky 

Admire the rich autumnal colours and unusual composition of this eye-catching piece. 

Based in Russia, Alexander Viazmensky ventures deep into the woods near St Petersburg for his specimens, which he paints in watercolour. 

The vibrant mushrooms in this painting belong to the genus Russula. There are 750 species of mushrooms worldwide within this genus and they're typically large and brightly-coloured, making them easy to spot. 

A painting of fungi from Modern Masterpieces exhibition
'The colours of Brittlegills: Russula' by Alexander Viazmensky © Shirley Sherwood Collection

Dove or pocket handkerchief tree by Coral Guest 

One of Shirley Sherwood's favourite flowers, this elegant painting was commissioned as the 1000th painting in the Shirley Sherwood Collection. 

Davidia involucrata originated in China and was discovered in 1869 in Sichuan, China. It has beautifully delicate pairs of white bracts sheltering the flowers, which is where it gets it name 'dove tree'. 

The flower's stem can be up to 18 centimetres long, and in spring the flowers look as if they're floating from the branches. 

Dove or Pocket Handkerchief tree
'Dove or Pocket Handkerchief tree', Coral Guest © Shirley Sherwood Collection

Phragmipedium kovachii by Angela Mirro 

This stunning orchid has enormous pink flowers that can reach 20 centimetres wide. Native to the Andean cloud forests of northern Peru, it's considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to over collection in the wild. 

It was first painted by Angela Mirro on an expedition to Peru. She was the first to paint this then-newly discovered orchid. 

She travelled to a village high up in the Andes, where she waited for the flower to open. It only started opening at the end of her expedition, so she had to work quickly to capture as much of the flower as possible in watercolour. 

Phragmipedium kovachii by Angela Mirro
'Phragmipedium kovachii' by Angela Mirro © Shirley Sherwood Collection

Philodendron sp. Rio Negro, Amazonas by Margaret Mee

Margaret Mee explored the Amazon and painted many plants new to science. Her work has raised awareness of the destruction of the rainforest and the endangered plants that grow in this environments.

She went on 15 expeditions to the Amazon to record the diversity of plant life there. 

In the 1960s, the unique and rich environments of the Amazon started to rapidly disappear. She defended the Amazon in both word and image, sketching the devastation of the landscape and speaking out against deforestation. 

In this painting, the backdrop of the rainforest was intended to alert environmentalists about the dangers to these habitats. 

'Philodendron sp. Rio Negro, Amazonas' by Margaret Mee © Shirley Sherwood Collection
'Philodendron sp. Rio Negro, Amazonas' by Margaret Mee © Shirley Sherwood Collection
A painting of fungi from Modern Masterpieces exhibition

Modern Masterpieces of Botanical Art

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