Tuesday, April 24, 2012


This lovely artistic antique botanical flower print, circa 1925, was extracted from an old folio of flower prints whose goal was to present all the wild flowers native to North America at that time. The species are presented in more scientific presentation used by biologists and scientists, which is as a close-up of the flower on its own on a white background. This famous artist has captured the exquisite detail in the leaves, petals, stem and flower buds. Given the changing world climate and decline in forest and wildlands over the last century, the flowering plants from this series are in many cases quite rare in their wild ecological habitat and are most likely found being cultivated in a florist garden store or greenhouse. Once framed, this print would make a fine interior decorating accent in a bedroom or living room. Great gift for the interior designer decorator or horticulturalist.
DESCRIPTION OF FLOWER: FranUinia alatamaba Marshall

Franklinia, or Franklin tree, a member of the Tea Family, has perhaps the most romantic history of any plant included in "North AmericanWild Flowers" It was first seen by John Bartram in 1765: in the vicinity of Fort Barrington, Georgia, and was named by his friend, Humphrey Marshall, in honor of Benjamin Franklin. His son, William Bartram, also visited the locality in 1791 and described the plant in his "Travels through North and South Carolina" He states that he never saw it at any other place but near the Fort,where "there are two or three acres of ground where it grows plentifully" Thorough search has since been made by botanists, including Dr. C. S. Sargent, H. W Ravenel, and Dr. E. T. Wherry, but no wild plants can be found. All those in existence in American gardens apparently originated with the plant or plants obtained by William Bartram and grown at Philadelphia in the place long known as Bartrams Garden, now a public park.

Franklinia has been shown by Dr. Frederick V. Coville to belong to the great number of plants that flourish only in acid soils. Cuttings have been rooted successfully and distributed to nurserymen and to private gardens. At Whitesbog, in New Jersey, a number of plants are growing vigorously under the care of Miss Elizabeth C. White. The specimen sketched was obtained from one of these plants when they were in blossom in September, 1926. The delicious odor of the flowers attracts many bees, but few viable seeds have resulted. The Franklinia blooms in autumn when most other trees or shrubs are past flowering. Its leaves turn a beautiful crimson before falling from the branches.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Mary Morris Vaux received a set of watercolor paints at age eight and began experimenting with painting flowers. The Philadelphia family spent summers in the Canadian Rockies where Mary and her brothers studied mineralogy and recorded the flow of glaciers in paintings. Mary returned to western Canada almost every summer and became an active mountain climber and outdoorswoman. One summer a botanist asked her to paint a rare blooming arnica; her success in recording the flower encouraged her to concentrate on botanical illustration. For many years, on foot or horseback, she explored difficult terrain looking for important flowering species to paint. In 1913 Mary Vaux met Charles Doolittle Walcott, then secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, while both were in the Canadian Rockies--she painting and hiking, he conducting geological research. After marrying the next year, the couple spent several months each season in the Canadian Rockies where he continued his studies and she painted hundreds of watercolor studies of native flowers. At the urging of botanists and wild flower enthusiasts, in 1925 a selection of more than four hundred of Mary Walcott's illustrations were published by the Smithsonian Institution. Currently 791 watercolor drawings by Walcott are in the collection of the National Museum of American Art.

ARTIST'S DESCRIPTION OF HER ARTWORK: Wild flowers were a joy and inspiration in the happy days of childhood when I was taught to observe and sketch them under the direction of a skilled artist. Years passed before a botanical friend at Glacier, British Columbia, asked me to portray a rare and perishable alpine flower so as to preserve its beauty, color, and graceful outline as a living thing. During succeeding seasons I painted other rare specimens until many of the "living flowers that skirt the eternal frost" in the wildflower gardens of the Canadian Rockies were transferred in color and form to the East, where sketches of the native woodland and meadow blossoms soon began to join them. During the past ten years I have spent from three to four months each season in the Canadian Rockies, where Dr.Walcott was carrying on geological explorations, covering in all more than five thousand miles on the mountain trails. This afforded me a wonderful opportunity for intimate study of the flora, my aim being to collect and paint the finest specimens obtainable, and to depict the natural grace and beauty of the plant without conventional design. Many of the western sketches were made under trying conditions. Often, on a mountain side or high pass, a fire was necessary to warm stiffened fingers and body. In camp, the diffused light of the white tent was a great handicap, and considerable ingenuity was required to obtain a proper combination of light and shade. The paint box and pads found safe conveyance on the back of the saddle, except in unusual storms of rain or snow, and many times while waiting for the pack train to be made ready, a sketch was begun or completed. The short lives of the blooming plants definitely limit the number of sketches that can be made during a single field season, for many hours of work are necessary to finish a single sketch, and wild flowers wither quickly. A sharp frost in July or early August will ruin them, or an unusually warm, dry season or a cold, wet one will prevent flowering or kill the blossoms that have matured. For these reasons desirable specimens of many of the fragile alpine flowers are difficult to secure, and in some instances were seen in perfection but two or three times during the many seasons on the trail. The limited habitat of others made it necessary to take long rides and climb high above the timber line to procure them, and frequently no trails were available. Our sure-footed mountain ponies were a large factor in our success. Both the bloom and the fruit of a few trees have been sketched with the hope that these exquisite forms may be more observed and appreciated by nature lovers. The illustrations of eastern plants have been made from specimens collected as opportunity offered and from those contributed by many friends. All the sketches are life size.

As time went on and the collection grew, botanists, artists, and others interested in flowers began to urge that the water-color sketches should be permanently preserved and made available for students and lovers of the beautiful in Nature, before the dust of time faded and browned them to the hues of the pressed flowers of the herbaria. A survey of wild flower publications led to the decision that there was need for a finely illustrated work that would be of service pictorially to all professional and amateur botanists and designers, and to the larger group of lovers of wild flowers and the great out-of-doors. To many of these the living flowers are inaccessible, and their real beauty is unknown. No attempt has been made to create a text book with technical descriptions, or to illustrate all native American wild flowers, and only native plants have been included.


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