Rowan, Mrs [Ellis]
- A Flower-Hunter in Queenland and New Zealand
John Murray, London, 1898.
First edition, second impression: octavo; hardcover, with gilt spine and upper board titles and blind-stamped and gilt upper board decoration; 272pp., all pages opened, with a monochrome frontispiece (with tissue guard), 15 plates likewise, a full-colour plate, and a folding coloured map. Mild rubbing and insect damage to the boards; spine sunned with some softening to the extremities; offset to the endpapers; mild toning to the text block and page edges. No dustwrapper. Very good. An emancipated woman far ahead of her time, she turned what her fellow Australian artists deemed a 'genteel' female pastime of flower painting into an adventurous and profitable career that took her all over the world. In a career spanning fifty years and ending with her death in 1922, she produced the phenomenal number of more than 3000 paintings, many of which she succeeded in placing in public collections. Rowan exhibited her work as far afield as London and New York and achieved acclaim at the great world expositions of her day, winning some ten gold, fifteen silver and four bronze medals. Her travels are recounted here in the form of letters addressed to her husband and family. As a reviewer wrote, 'there's not an uninteresting page in the whole book'. It has often been observed that truth did not obstruct the telling of a good story, and that the inconsistencies recorded have little bearing on the facts. Ellis Rowan was an adept self-promoter and styled herself as an 'intrepid and tenacious lady painter and adventurer,' an interesting mythical persona which contradicted her true nature - as Ellis's niece, Maie Casey, once said of her aunt, 'for much of her life she lived solitary, dedicated, in a universe of heightened visual perception." It was probably while accompanying her husband Frederic on his business trips around Australia that she met the world-travelling English flower painter, Marianne North, at Albany, Western Australia, in 1880. This eccentric woman with a strong sense of vocation provided a role model for Rowan, who later wrote: 'I became her devoted admirer, and she became the pioneer of my ambition'. Thereafter she took up a life of travel and adventure. Following Marianne North's practice of depicting her subjects in situ, Ellis Rowan trekked to remote and distant places to the tropics of Queensland on at least six occasions. Also like her mentor, saw she herself more an artist and public educator than botanical illustrator and was determined to place her paintings in the public domain.
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