On Our Shelves Now
Now available in a new, large single volume with an appendix also listing the modern plant names, this classic collection by “the Audubon of botany” features more than 250 exquisite reproductions of Walcott’s celebrated watercolors of wildflower life in the United States of America and Canada.
Published in association with the Smithsonian Institution
What does it take to paint a wildflower that blooms for a single day in a deep forest? For Mary Vaux Walcott, it involved spending up to seventeen hours a day out of doors with her paintbox to capture the shape, movement, and colors of delicate petals and leaves.
Originally published in 1925 to enormous acclaim in five, oversized volumes, Walcott’s sketches introduced the diversity and beauty of North American plants to the general public. A selection of some of the most stunning illustrations are now available in a single volume, these illustrations have lost none of their beauty or realism.
Walcott’s technique involved precise attention to detail, color, light, and perspective. Her art can also be appreciated as the work of a woman scientist battling the prejudices against her sex of the day. She was an intrepid explorer, skilled geologist, and generous benefactor to the Smithsonian Institution at a time when women’s accomplishments were often overlooked or misattributed.
As inspirational and informative as they are a pleasure for the eyes, this bouquet of nature’s fleeting gifts is a lasting treasure of botanic and scientific artistry.
About the Author
PAMELA HENSON directs the Institutional History program at Smithsonian Institution Archives and is Historian in Residence, History Department, at American University in Washington, D.C. Recent publications include “Looking at Culture through an Artist’s Eyes: William Henry Holmes and the Exploration of Native American Archaeology,” in: M. Thomas and A. Harris (eds.), Expeditionary Anthropology: Teamwork, Travel, and the ‘Science of Man’, 2018. She co-curated Welcome to Your Smithsonian (Smithsonian Castle, 2015). Recent awards include the 2015 Feis Award for Public History, American Historical Association, and Smithsonian Secretary’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, 2014.