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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A fascinating Woman, a fascinating Book

Margaret Mee
The diminutive artist who painted rare and exotic plants in the Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest.

Margaret Mee created 40 folios of gouache illustrations, 40 sketchbooks and 15 diaries.  She explored the Brazilian Jungles on numerous expeditions between 1958 and 1988.

Most of her illustrations are now part of the Kew Garden collection. 

Mee was a botanical artist par excellence who brought many botanical plants and flowers before the world for the first time.


In November 1988,  I watched an interview with MacNeil on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour with Margaret Mee.  Throughout the entire interview, the usual somber MacNeil could not stop from smiling, especially when  Ms Mee recites an  incident where she held off a bunch of drunken prospectors with her revolver. 

Here is the interview repeated on the show after her tragic death following a car crash in Seagrave, Leicestershire, England on November 30, 1988.  She was only 79 years old.


All images (except the last) are from her book "In search of Flowers of the Amazon Forests"


  1. Dear Gina - Snap. I recently wrote about Victorian, Marianne North, who preceded Margaret Mee in the Brazilian jungle, and whose collection is housed at Kew in a Gallery named after her.
    I really enjoyed reading this.

  2. Gina, this beautiful tribute to Ms Mee took me right back to that MacNeil interview you mention. What a delightful woman she was, and what a fine artist. I have seen her works at Kew and for a long time used to hope to come across that book.

    As years have passed by, I think that even if I did own that book, my memories of the lady and her lively expressiveness might be stronger than the reproduced images on the paper pages.

    Maybe not?


  3. Dear Gina - I was very excited to read this posting, not only because I am familiar with the work of Margaret Mee, but also because I have spent a lot of time at the Hunt Botanical Library, which is the top floor of my college's library.

    You would absolutely love to visit the Hunt Botanical Library in Pittsburgh! The whole building is constructed of aluminun because it was a gift of the Hunt family, who are the heirs of ALCOA. Rachel Hunt, who was moneyed all her life, became a collector of botanical books, and she also became a master bookbinder. (The books she made were the type that would have gems and cameos incorporated into the binding. She was really a great artist!). Her collection is the basis of the Hunt Botanical Library, which is one of the finest in the world (if not THE finest).

    Anyway, the Hunt Botanical Library has the works of Margaret Mees, and many other botanical artists, dating all the way back to the 1600s.

    Wouldn't that be a great reference source for your own work?!

  4. I enjoyed reading the interview - many thanks for the link. What a brave and interesting person - a fascinating post.

  5. Dear Rosemary, It's been a long time since we visited the Kew Gardens. Your post about Marianne North was a wonderful reminder that there were women who were not afraid to be different and who followed their dream and at the same time left for us such a beautiful legacy.

  6. Dear Frances, I'm so glad that you also saw that wonderful interview. To think that she was killed in a car accidnet only a few days later. She had overcome so many difficulties and then her life is shortened on a book signing trip to England.

  7. Dear Mark, I would like nothing better than to visit your Hunt Botanical Library. Going to look up Rachel Hunt. She sounds like another fascinating woman. To take up bookbinding and include gems and cameos...how interesting.
    You know what I love about America? People like Ms Hunt who share their wealth and talent with the common Folk.

  8. Hi Karen, So glad you enjoyed the post. I have read this book several times and each time I am in awe of this little and fearless personage.

  9. Ms Mee sounds like a woman before her time. I love botanicals and will look up the book on her life. Thank you Gina.

    Art by Karena

  10. Dear Karena, Ms Mee has written several books. I have had mine for a very long time. Checking with Amazon, they have new and used versions. All are expensive. I wouldn't be surprised if you can find it in your local Library.