Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains 1882
These paintings dating from 1882 represent the early endeavour to classify the botanical species in the developing landscapes of the Rocky Mountain National Park – acquired by the US government in 1803. The first expeditions to this inhospitable area were in the 1820s, then the 1850s and 1860s brought the gold rush, settlements and homesteading. With this, by the end of the 19th century, came the intrepid tourists – including a number of women explorers and naturalists.
Our artist, presumed to be British, appears to have encountered these remarkable plants first-hand, then perhaps worked up these illustrations – likely for print publication – in the studio. Executed directly in vivid watercolour, the flowers are presented in a considered and artistic way, thoughtfully bunched and well placed on the page. This style of illustration is very reminiscent of ‘The Garden: an illustrated weekly journal of gardening in all its branches’, published in London, 1871-1927, which was intended to be more accessible to the general reader than other horticultural publications.