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Christchurch City Council Media Release 14 July, 1997



Having just completed a very successful tour of Australia, the work of one of Australia’s most celebrated flower painters, Marian Ellis Rowan, is to make a one-venue visit to Christchurch, New Zealand. The Canterbury community and visitors will be able to view these remarkable paintings, reflecting the rich diversity and beauty of Queensland’s native wildflowers, at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery between 4 September and 4 November, 1997.

Born in 1848, Rowan’s prolific painting career spanned nearly half a century and she turned this "genteel" Victorian pastime into a profitable and highly acclaimed public role. This was an achievement, considering the role of women and the social climate of the times. Casting aside conventional domesticity, Rowan made many "flower-hunting" expeditions to remote and inhospitable parts of Australia and New Guinea in her pursuit of subjects to paint. She found the tropical flowers of Queensland "more beautiful than all" and made several trips there from her home base in Melbourne. In 1912 Rowan persuaded the Queensland Government to purchase 125 of her paintings which are now held by the Queensland Museum, and the Museum has kindly loaned 50 of her finest paintings to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. This exhibition is accompanied by a superbly researched and illustrated catalogue retracing the artist’s fascinating life and journeys.


Of particular interest to New Zealanders will be Rowan’s time spent here following her marriage to Captain Frederic Charles Rowan of the New Zealand Armed Constabulary. After his death , many years later, Rowan returned to New Zealand where, in Christchurch, she was delighted to discover the work of Margaret Stoddart. In her book

A Flower Hunter in Queensland and New Zealand she wrote: "Even here everyone was shivering, but I forgot the weather amongst Miss Stoddart’s beautiful flower-paintings in the Art Gallery. I had the pleasure of meeting her, and next morning went to see her whole collection. It was a new revelation to me to see such work hidden away, and I think she stands without rival the first and foremost of our flower-painters in Australia. Her groupings, colouring, form, and harmony were perfect."

Ellis Rowan will be on show at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch from September 4 until November 2, 1997 before returning to Australia. Margaret Stoddart’s complementary exhibition opens at the McDougall on November 19, 1997 and runs through until February 8 1998, before beginning its national tour.

The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, located in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, is among the country’s most visited public art galleries featuring regularly changing exhibitions of international and New Zealand historical and contemporary art. The McDougall Art Annex, located in the Arts Centre, features international, national and local contemporary exhibitions.



Exhibition Fact Sheet




This exhibiton is is a touring exhibition from the Queensland Museum in Australia. Inaccessible to the public for almost half a century, the Queensland Museum’s collection of flower paintings by Ellis Rowan has been touring Australia and is making a one venue visit to New Zealand. This collection of works can be seen at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery from 4 September to 2 November, 1997.




Ellis Rowan was one of the great intrepid Victorian artistic explorers. She took her watercolours with her to Queensland rainforests, West Australian goldfields, New Guinea and New Zealand mountains. Through maintaining a successful and independent career as an artist, Rowan was able to indulge in her love of flowers and travel. She wrote of her life’s adventures and told stories of her expeditions - often combining fact and fiction. Her thousands of detailed paintings added considerably to scientific knowledge and the range of Antipodean botanical studies. More than simply recording the physical appearance of plants, each painting reveals a strong sense of design and balance of colour. Not only did Rowan paint botanical subjects, but her paintings of New Guinea moths and butterflies further illustrate her ability in draughtsmanship and accuracy.




Accompanying the exhibition is a range of cards, a catalogue and posters. The exhibition is made up of more than 50 paintings, a selection of books, china and a frame of insects. The exhibition’s curator, Ms Judith McKay is travelling out with the exhibition and will present an illustrated lecture on "Ellis Rowan, A Flower-Hunter in Queensland" on Thursday,

4 September at 5.30 p.m. On Sunday, 28 September at 11 a.m., Julie King, senior lecturer in Art History at Canterbury University, will speak on "Flower Painters in the Colonial Landscape" in the Hurst Seager Room, Christchurch Arts Centre.




This exhibition is proudly sponsored by Anglo Pacific International Ltd.


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