F2 in the Art Block is named after Marianne North, a botanical artist who defied the stereotypes of Victorian women by travelling and leaving behind an extraordinary legacy of art and plant discovery. She was not fond of conventional societal norms and through her paintings of flowers in their natural habitats, was able to give a glimpse of plants inaccessible to most people at the time.
North was born in 1830 and from a young age accompanied her beloved father, Frederick North, around Europe and the Middle East painting in her spare time. With his death in 1870, Marianne found herself adrift and wanting focus. Having never married, she had retained much of her father's fortune and used it in her pursuit of painting flowers in their natural settings.
She broke with Victorian conventions and travelled all over the globe (including Jamaica, Brazil and Japan) on her own, in order to satisfy her passion for recording the world's flora with her paintbrush. Her style was groundbreaking at the time, using brightly coloured oil paints to capture flowers, landscapes, animals and birds.
At the suggestion of Charles Darwin , who had been a friend of her father's, she chose her next great destination of Australia where some of the plants she painted proved new to science and one genus and four species were named in her honour.
The result of these epic journeys can be seen in the Marianne North Gallery at Kew which features 832 paintings, all completed in 13 years of travel round the world. It is still one of the most popular attractions there and captured scenery in a pioneering style. North died on 30th August 1890 but her legacy lives on in the gallery, providing visitors to Kew with the chance to explore the amazing 'snapshot in time' represented by her paintings.
“[On a sunset:] I cannot speak or move. I am drunk with beauty!”
Ms M Holian