Let me introduce you, especially if you are not familiar, to an Australian artist who WAS a household name in her time but now is all but forgotten....
Ellis Rowan 1848 - 1922
otherwise known as "The Flower Hunter" ohhhhh don't you adore that name?
She is such a inspirational kin-spirit to me and if you love stories about art, women pushing boundaries, Australian stories, well you have to explore this amazing and inspirational woman's life and works.
Fast Fact... the largest single collection of ANY artist in the WORLD is the one held by the National Library in Canberra, Australia of Ellis Rowan's work! 970 pieces.
She adored flowers.... :) and would travel to the most remote locations imaginable, all over Australia and then overseas to find her beloved subjects.
But wait!... Ellis did all this mostly alone in her corsets, flowing dresses and parasol. To boot her most famous adventure was during the First World War when she set out to paint all 72 know Bird of Paradise flowers in New Guinea... amazing? Well yes... but astounding as she was 70 at the time.
She as described by writer Winifred Scott:
"....the painter was more wonderful than her work and that is saying a great deal. The first impression was of fiery, intense vitality in a seemingly most fragile personality.... She had a power of endurance which strong men might envy.... and worked as if upheld by some power greater than any inherent in human flesh and blood"
Loving her yet? Well not everyone shared that at the time....
Ellis Rowan wrote newspaper articles entitled "The Flower Hunter" about her adventures. It was wildly exciting and popular, something that would bring her under scrutiny. Her writings where embellished, as she would later admit, to maintain interest in what can at times be a monotonous process. She used the media of the time, understood it's power and had a keen sense of what the public wanted to hear.
You have to remember at the time being an artist was not something encouraged in women. In fact Flower Painting WAS, but it was the pursuit of ladies in parlours with cut specimens from tended gardens. Ellis not only took to adventuring to seek out her subjects, she wrote newspaper articles, a book, won many Art Prizes and was a household name and so was bound to upset not only society but especially the male art establishment.
Although she was her times 'Blogger', using the media of the time to promote her work and herself it was in fact a projection of herself, as she was a very private person and did not at all like people getting too close. It can be hard to unravelthe real Ellis, but her work and what we do know of her life stand as that of great artistic accomplishment, a life lived with passion and adventure.
I adore her paintings, although her work was mainly Botanical Art, she infused such passion and drama into her paintings that the line between Scientific art and Fine art overlapped divinely. Her connection with flowers is very much something I relate to. She also painted animals, birds!, insects and landscapes.
I began my own art journey as a 'Flower' painter when I lived in Avalon in Sydney and over the years have revisited them as subjects when I've been in the painting mood. I'm currently reworking what I USED to do with what I do now and have been drawn to Ellis for inspiration.
Flowers have never left me... I wear them in my hair because I love them and because I strongly believe in the benefits of colour therapy. Can't resist a floral dress or in fact anything covered with Gaia's gift of love.
Few more Ellis snippets....
*Her portrait (1929) by Longstaff was the first National Portrait of a Woman! (paid for by the people)
*She held the largest solo exhibition ever seen at the time in Sydney in 1920 featuring 1000 works!
*Ellis spent 10 years in the UK, held successful exhibitions, and attracted many admirers including royality, even Queen Victoria herself acquired three paintings.
*She travelled the USA painting wildflowers for seven years on her quest. Ellis wrote three books on the subject in collaboration with Alice Lounsberry.
Time for you to go exploring.....
excellent website created for the 2003 exhibition held by the National Library
and I adore this book "The Flower Hunter" by Christine and Michael Morton-Evans
Happy Flower Hunting!
A few of my VERY VERY ancient paintings....