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Rebecca Rice, Curator Historical New Zealand Art, Te Papa. Photograph by Jack Fisher, 2019.
Sarah Featon’s exquisite paintings of the flowering native plants of New Zealand were the basis for the ground-breaking publication The Art Album of New Zealand Flora, 1887–89. With her husband, Edward Featon, she sought to disprove the ‘mistaken notion that New Zealand is particularly destitute of native flowers’. For the Art Album, Sarah’s vibrant watercolours were transformed into chromolithographs and accompanied by Edward’s lively and occasionally verbose text. The result was a publication that was praised as a ‘colonial work of art’.
In this talk, Dr Rebecca Rice will explore Featon’s work alongside that of her female contemporaries, Georgina Hetley and Emily Harris, who also produced illustrated botanical publications in the 1880s. Rebecca will look at how these women operated in the emerging field of botanical science, highlighting that the life of a ‘flower painter’ occupied a liminal realm – “tossed like a shuttlecock between the scientist on the one hand, and the lover of the beautiful on the other.” She will suggest that it doesn’t have to be either/or, and that Te Papa provides a wonderful context for appreciating and celebrating the contributions of these women to science, and to art.
Rebecca Rice (Curator Historical New Zealand Art)is an art historian who specialises in the field of colonial New Zealand art, with a particular interest in the histories of collecting, exhibition, and display. Her current research focuses on the visual culture of the New Zealand Wars, and the impact of impressionism on New Zealand artists at home and abroad.
Feature Image: Detail from: Sarah Featon, ‘Wild flowers and Berries’, Frontispiece to The Art Album of New Zealand Flora, chromolithograph. Wellington: Bock and Cousins, 1889.
Member $75, Non-member $85 (Includes a welcome glass of bubbles, talk, High Tea and free parking)