Following her visit to south-east Asia and the Indonesian Archipelago, the prolific traveller and botanical artist Marianne North (1830-1890) returned to Britain through the Indian Ocean, where she visited India in 1877-79.
When North visited India, she stayed for a while in the west coastal resort of Beypore, India (c 1877-79), in the state of Kerala. She rented a large room over the railway station, just a hundred yards from the water of the Indian Ocean. It looks idyllic.
In the north-west, she visited the city of Chittaurgarh in Rajasthan, where she painted Water Palace – Chitore. India in December 1878. This city is centred on its major fort, which dates back to the seventh century CE, and has two major palaces, Rana Kumbha’s and Rani Padmini’s, the latter being shown here. Padmini was a legendary queen in the 13th to 14th centuries.
North’s breathtaking mountain view From Nahl Dehra near Simla (Shimla), Himachal Pradesh, India (1878) shows the rugged hills near the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, in the Western Himalaya. From 1864, that city was the summer capital of British India because of its far more equitable climate.
Mount Everest or Deodunga from Sundukpho, North India (c 1878) is another impressive view of the Himalaya. Deodunga has been used by several of the British in India as the name of the world’s highest mountain before it was renamed.
On her return to Britain, North had already become quite a celebrity, following an exhibition of over five hundred of her paintings in London in 1878. She offered her paintings to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, where she oversaw the construction of a gallery to house them.
She consulted with Charles Darwin, a family friend, who advised her to go to paint the plants of Australia and New Zealand. She was soon off again to follow his direction, and arrived in Australia in 1880.
Branch of a Grevillea and a View on the Swan River, West Australia, which she painted in the 1880s, shows a species of Spider Flower, a genus of flowering plants widespread throughout Australia and the islands to the north.
View near Brighton, Victoria (1880s) shows an unspoilt view of what’s now an affluent suburb about seven miles (11 km) from central Melbourne. It had originally been intended for housing development in 1841, and grew steadily through the rest of that decade. By 1861 it was connected by railway to the city, and at this time already had municipal baths.
View of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand (1880-82) shows this long inland lake in the south of South Island.
North also painted some composed floral still lifes, including this selection of New Zealand Flowers and Fruit from 1880-82.
She then returned to Britain, where her gallery at Kew opened. Soon after that she travelled to South Africa, and to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
Palms, Capucin Trees, etc. on the Cliffs near Venn’s Town, Mahé (c 1883) shows the largest island of the Seychelles, which is named after the French governor of Mauritius.
She also painted the Foliage, Flowers and Fruit of the Capucin Tree of the Seychelles (c 1883).
The Clove in Fruit and View over Mahé, Seychelles (c 1882) shows the fruit which are then dried to produce the aromatic and oil-bearing clove.
She painted this view of Coco de Mer Gorge in Praslin, Seychelles, with Distant View of Mahé Silhouette and the Cousins in 1883.
She then suffered from ill-health and was forced to remain in Britain. North settled in Alderley, Gloucestershire, where she died in 1890.
Several plant species are named in her honour, and a whole genus was named for her in 1884. Her gallery remains in Kew Gardens, its walls covered with hundreds of her paintings. You may still be able to pick up copies of the three volumes of her autobiography too. She’s quite probably the most successful woman artist before the middle of the twentieth century.