Kew Gardens And Marianne North Gallery

by admin on February 9, 2011

After over a week of gray, misty days in London I was surprised to see a clear blue sky on my way to visit Kew Gardens. Perfect timing! However, since it was only the first week of February, I wasn’t optimistic regarding the available specimens to photograph other than the snowdrops. Snowdrops there were, by the thousands, as well as carpets of crocuses opening wide to the warm sun. I saw some naughty geese munching away at the fresh flowers. All the shrubs and trees sprouted forth in concert and I had plenty to keep my camera busy.

Of course there are also the indoor exhibits in enormous glass enclosures. I don’t tend to shoot orchids but I had to stand in wonder at the multicolored gaudy towers and arches. I was able to find some other interesting leaves and budding plants in the temperate house.

With 300 acres of land, it takes a full day to get around the place. I was there for four hours and didn’t even get to the furthest areas. Perhaps next time I should bring my jogging shoes. I was so enamored with the huge vine sculptures of pods and natural forms by artist, Tom Hare. I would love to learn how to make them.

I made a large circle walking amongst amazing old trees and discovering little hidden gardens. I also climbed up to the tree top walkway to take in the view. There is a very tall pagoda that I could see in the distance.

My most surprising find was the Marianne North Gallery. The Gallery first opened in 1882 and is the only permanent solo exhibition by a female artist in Britain. Miss Marianne North lived from 1830-1890. She was an intrepid traveler and avid painter with boundless curiosity about her surroundings as illustrated in her 832 paintings on exhibit. I marveled at the thought of a single woman traveling to 17 countries across 5 continents at that time. She painted 1000 species, many of them unknown by botanists. She was able to name many of the plants she encountered herself. Upon her return to England, she designed, arranged and funded the building of a gallery to exhibit her paintings within the Kew Gardens. She was rewarded by a special thank you letter from Queen Victoria.

I would have loved to have met this extraordinary woman and perhaps painted alongside her in some remote jungle in Java. It must have been a challenge carrying back all of those canvases. I have a hard enough time carrying one canvas back on an airplane!

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