Ellis Rowan

Christine Morton-Evans

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Ellis described the fungi:

Growing,they look like dolls dressed up in fluted lace petticoats ... Some are applegreen, others mauve; one is black, and another has a scarlet cap. They standhigh on long white stems, and the fungus closely resembles exquisite lace.

In her 70s, artist and naturalist Ellis Rowan spent day after daypainting birds, plants and flowers in the tropics of Papua New Guinea. After ayoung local boy brought her a beautiful toadstool one day--then another, andanother--she painted no less than 72 images of various species of fungi, many ofwhich were unknown to Australian botanists at the time.

Scattered throughout Christine Morton-Evans' new illustrated biographyof the artist, Ellis Rowan's own words offer an expressive and often amusinginsight into the way Rowan saw the world. Portraying herself as an 'intrepidlady explorer', she not only adventured into wild and inaccessible places insearch of new wildflowers and wildlife, she also wrote of these expeditions in vividaccounts for her family, and later for print in newspapers.

A first-generationAustralian, driven by the pioneering spirit of her parents, Rowan decided earlythat she would search out, collect and paint an entire collection of wildAustralian flora. From the late 1870s, she exhibited works at internationalexhibitions, winning dozens of medals and receiving the highest honours at the1888 Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne. In 1895, Rowan met QueenVictoria, who purchased three of Rowan's paintings, which she intended to havemade into a fire-screen. It was but a small part of her success. Her life's workmade an important contribution to knowledge of our country's flora and fauna.

From her early life inMelbourne, through schooldays, marriage and children, to the tropical north ofAustralia, England and Papua New Guinea, Rowan was known for her independent,strong character. She enjoyed her own company, content to flout the conventionsof the period in pursuit of activities that would satisfy her endless curiosityabout people, places and nature.

This is her story, toldthrough the wonderful paintings that form part of her collection of 970 worksheld by the National Library of Australia.


ISBN: 9780642279576
Publication Date: 01-Apr-2020
Publisher: National Library of Australia