Marianne North by Julia Margaret Cameron (24 October 1830 – 30 August 1890)
Marianne North photographed in Ceylon by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1877.
“She made up her mind at once she would photograph me, and for three days she kept herself in a fever of excitement about it, but the results have not been approved of at home since. She dressed me up in flowing draperies of cashmere wool, let down my hair, and made me stand with spiky cocoa-nut branches running into my head, the noonday sun’s rays dodging my eyes between the leaves as the slight breeze moved them, and told me to look perfectly natural (with a thermometer standing at 96 degrees)! Then she tried me with a background of breadfruit leaves and fruit, nailed flat against a window shutter, and told them to look natural, but both failed; and though she wasted twelve plates, and an enormous amount of trouble, it was all in vain, she could only get a perfectly uninteresting and commonplace person on her glasses, which refused to flatter.” Recollections of a happy life: being the autobiography of Marianne North, Volume 1, pg. 315, London Macmillan & Co., 1892
albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron showing Marianne North painting a Tamil boy in Mrs Cameron’s house in Ceylon, 1877, private collection, UK.
"Although she had no formal training in illustration, and was rather unconventional in her methods, Marianne North had a natural artistic talent and was very prolific. She inherited her interest in traveling from her father, the MP Frederick North. Her political connections served her well, providing her with letters of introduction to ambassadors, viceroys, rajahs, governors and ministers all over the world.
Marianne travelled to Japan across the American continent in 1875, returning two years later via Sarawak, Java and Sri Lanka. Today her paintings from these places provide an important historical record. Some places are still recognisable from her paintings. For example, stands of the giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus) that she painted in 1877 at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, can still be seen thriving in the gardens today.
After exhibiting her paintings in a London gallery in 1879, Marianne had the idea of showing them at Kew. She wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker, offering to build a gallery if he would agree to display her life’s work in it. The gallery was duly built in a mix of classical and colonial styles. After a visit to Australia and New Zealand, Marianne spent a year arranging her paintings inside the building. It opened to the public in 1882". Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens.
Two samples of paintings by Marianne North