Catalogue description Papers of Marianne North, Botanic Artist

This record is held by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives

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Details of RM 2
Reference: RM 2
Title: Papers of Marianne North, Botanic Artist

This collection comprises two groups of records; the first consists of letters written by Marianne North to various friends and acquaintances both about her travel experiences and the creation of the North Gallery at Kew Gardens. The second contains other documents relating to Marianne North.

NOTE: Please use the document references found in the 'Former reference (Department)' field when wishing to consult these documents at the Archives of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Date: 1875-c.1979
Related material:

Correspondence from Marianne North is contained in other series held at the Kew Gardens Archive.

Separated material:

Oxford University: Somerville College Library: 41 letters to Amelia Edwards (1871-84) and travel diary.

Held by: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives, not available at The National Archives
Copies held at:

MN/1/6: Letters to the Shaen family – photocopies of the original documents in MN/1/5.

Former reference in its original department: MN
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Marianne North, 1830-1890

Physical description: 10 files and volumes
Access conditions: Open
Publication note:

Various books about Marianne North held in the Main Library at RBG Kew (see library catalogue at RBG Kew); Official North Gallery Guides/Catalogue - editions 4 (1886), 5 (1892) and 6 (1914); Manuscript draft for the 7th edition of the "Official Guide" (1960); Directors` Correspondence: Vol. 97 ff.159-189 (c.1879-1889); Vol.151 f.842 (c.late 19th century); Vol.188 ff.518-521 (1884): (made available on microfilm).

Administrative / biographical background:

Marianne North was born in Hastings in 1830, the daughter of Frederick North MP. At an early age she revealed a talent for drawing and after the death of her father in 1869, devoted the remainder of her life to flower painting.

Miss North travelled widely, often enduring considerable discomfort, in order to paint flowers in their natural habitats. Although she received no formal training in drawing and painting, and was somewhat unconventional in her methods, her work achieved a high level of artistic competence. She painted quickly, often completing a picture in a day.

In 1871, she undertook the first of her many journeys, visiting the United States, Canada and Jamaica. She returned to England for a brief period, before setting off for Brazil where she stayed for 8 months and completed over 100 paintings. In 1875, she crossed the American continent on her way to Japan, returning home in 1877 via Sarawak, Java and Sri Lanka. Six months later, she travelled to India, where she stayed for 15 months and produced over 200 paintings.

After a successful exhibition of her paintings in a London gallery in 1879, Miss North conceived the idea of presenting them to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She also generously offered to provide a suitable building in which to display them and asked her friend, the architectural historian, James Fergusson, to design the Gallery. Then, at the suggestion of Charles Darwin, Miss North visited Australia and New Zealand. On her return she spent a year arranging the paintings in the Gallery, which was opened to the public in June 1882.

Miss North continued to embark on further journeys. Just 2 months after the opening of her Gallery, she travelled to South Africa, where many more paintings were undertaken. In 1883, she was in the Seychelles and in 1884, despite ill-health, she was painting plants in Chile. These additional works were added to the Gallery, which today houses 832 of her oil paintings.

Marianne North retired to Alderley, Gloucestershire, where she died on 30 August 1890. The centenary of her death was commemorated in the book Marianne North at Kew Gardens.

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