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Inspiring Kew

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'Strelitzia reginae' (left) & 'Orchis mascula' (right)by Franz Bauer: 'Knifophia linearifolia' (centre) by Walter Hood Fitch - famous Kew botanical painters

An exhibition showing how Kew Gardens has inspired creative artists from its ‘physic’ garden beginnings in 1759 to the present day will open later this month.

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Garden, is currently being filled with the work of artists, photographers, fashion designers and writers, all stirred by the splendours of Kew.

Historic botanical paintings will be among the treasures on display including a hitherto unseen painting of a rose by Princess Charlotte, daughter of George III, from 1789 and artwork from Captain Cook’s 1768 voyage to Australia, set alongside contemporary equivalents such as paintings and illustrations from Lucy Smith’s 2001 journey from Australia to Indonesia on a replica of the Endeavour ship.

Watch out too for Rachel Pedder-Smith’s 5metre long Herbarium Specimen Painting, first exhibited two years ago, and alongside it a Vivienne Westwood dress from the Red Label Collection using the Floral Eve fabric the painting inspired. A rare first edition of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Kew Gardens’ with illustrations by Vanessa Bell will also feature.

Herbarium Specimen Painting by Rachel Pedder Smith

Herbarium Specimen Painting by Rachel Pedder Smith

There will be pictures of rubber, coffee and quinine and other key plants reflecting Kew’s contribution to their global reach, together with illustrations of plants used in cosmetics today.

Milestones in the development of the Shirley Sherwood Collection itself will also be explored beginning with her first purchase in 1990 of Pandora Sellar’s botanical watercolour Laelia tenebrosa.

Pandora Sellars 'Laelia tenebrosa',

Pandora Sellars ‘Laelia tenebrosa’,

The exhibition, ‘Inspiring Kew’, opens 30th August and runs to 1st February, 2015 9.30am to 5.30pm.

‘Inspired by Kew – Paintings that inspired the Shirley Sherwood Collection’ runs from 16th August to the end of January. Price is included in entry fee to the gardens. www.kew.org

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