Skip navigation

Library & Archives

4 Posts tagged with the women_artists tag

We are pleased to announce that the Library and Archives team recently installed the 3rd rotation of natural history artworks into the Images of Nature Gallery. This new rotation features the wonderful artworks of a further eighteen women artists whose artworks are represented in the Musuem's collections.


The featured artists in this penultimate rotation are :


Norma Gregory (b.1942) - Bergenia cordifolia, elephant-eared saxifrage

Elizabeth Cameron (1915-2008) - Rhododendron eclecteum, Rhododendron

Jean Webb (b.1943) - Piseum sativum, pea 'Commander'

Angela Gladwell (b.1945) - Strigops habroptilus, kakapo or owl parrot

Claire Dalby (b.1944) - Caloplaca verruculifera and Lecanora poliophaea, lichen

Barbara Nicholson (1906-1978) - Meadow flowers

Beatrice Corfe (1866-1947) - Juniperus communis, Juniper ; Quercus robur, English oak ; Sorbus torminalis, Wild service orange tree ; Castenea sativa, sweet chestnut

Augusta Withers (c.1791/2-1876) - Cone of Encephalartos longifolius

Mary Grierson (1912-2012) - Orobanche crenata Forsk.

Guilelma Lister (1860-1949) - Trichia affinis, slime mould

Mary Eaton (1873-1961) - Phallus impudicus, veiled stickhorn

Sarah Stone (c.1760-1844) - Goura cristata, western crowned-pigeon ; Rupicola rupicola, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock

Harriet Moseley (fl.1836-1867) - Rubus macrophyllus, large leaved bramble ; Iris foetidissima, stinking iris

Janet Dwek (b.1944) - Bellis perennis L., common daisy ; Rosa canina L., dog rose

Lilian Medland (1880-1955) - Parotia lawessi, Bird of paradise

E. Getrude Norrie (fl.1900s) - Parribacus antarcticus, slipper lobster ; Anampses cuvier, pearl wrasse

Joan Procter (d.1953) - watercolour drawings of frogs and toads

Olive Tassart (d.1953) - Spodoptera litura



Lilian Medland
Mary Grierson
E. Gertrude Norrie
Guilelma Lister
Medlandsmall.jpgGriesensmall.jpgnorrie 1small.jpgLister 1.jpg



For more highlights of the gallery please see here.


The artworks will remain on display in the Images of Nature Gallery until the end of February 2015.     


Entry to the Gallery is free.    


For more information on the Women Artists in our collections, the book Women Artists features examples of the artworks of over 100 women artists held by the Library and explores their various influences and motivations in the creation of some of the most visually stunning natural history illustrations of the past four centuries.



Following hot on the heels of the first rotation of some of the most striking natural history artworks by women artists that we hold in the Library and Archives collections, we have just installed a fresh rotation of artworks in the Images of Nature Gallery, including the wonderfully vibrant mango illustration by Malcy C. Moon (1803-1880).


Other artists featured in this new rotation include some of the best contemporary natural history illustrators including Elizabeth Butterworth, Jenny Brasier, Jessica Tcherepnine and Olga Makrushenko. Their individual use of colour, technique and artistic skill in acheiving both scientific accuracy and extraordinary beauty in their subjects is inspirational, and we are delighted to hold examples of their work in our collections.


The rotation also features the skilled graphite illlustrations of Sarah Ormerod (1784-1860) that sit alongside her daugher Georgiana Ormerod's (1823-1896) bold illustrations of the Rocky Mountain Locust and Southern hawker dragonfly. From the eighteenth century is Gertrude Metz's (1746-1793) watercolour of an Orange sherbet and we once again feature two birds from our Sarah Stone (c.1760-1844) collection - a tawny owl with young, and a Northern cardinal.


From the nineteenth century we have two watercolours by the relatively unknown Ellen Hawkins (fl.1821-1868). Her delicate but scientifically accurate and informative illustrations of a musk thistle and an aspen are accompanied by her manuscript notes and observations of these plants, written in iron gall ink. The equally wonderful botanical watercolours of Elizabeth Twining (1805-1889) and Laura Burrard (d.1880), the comprehensive and beautifully composed study of Barbara Nicholson's (1906-1978) Heathland plants and Margaret Cockburn's (1829-1928) intricately detailed birds eggs complete the diverse selection in this rotation.




The artworks will remain on display in the Images of Nature Gallery until the end of October 2014.


Entry to the Gallery is free.


For more information on the Women Artists in our collections, the book Women Artists features examples of the artworks of over 100 women artists held by the Library and explores their various influences and motivations in the creation of some of the most visually stunning natural history illustrations of the past four centuries.


gallery set up.jpg



Dalby blog.jpgGladwell blog.jpgeverard blog.jpgFlower blog.jpg

Another year and another new theme and chance for the Library & Archives to show off and celebrate our wonderful artwork collections! Throughout the centuries women have made significant contributions to natural history art - all of whom shared a fascination and enthusiasm for the natural world. Drawn for a variety of reasons and using a rich mix of artistic techniques, the new theme of Women Artists presents another captivating cross-section of the artwork collections at the Natural History Museum.


Over the next 16 months, the specially designated cabinets in the Images of Nature Gallery will showcase the artworks of some of the best women natural history artists spanning the last four centuries. The work of over 60 different women artists, many on public display for the first time, will feature illustrations ranging from the delightful Tawny owls by Sarah Stone (ca. 1760-1844) through to the colourful Hawaiian fishes of E. Gertrude Norrie (active 1900s) and contemporary botanical artists such as Norma Gregory and Olga Makrushenko.



stone blog.jpgnorrie blog.jpgGregory blog.jpgmakrushenko blog.jpg



The new theme also sees the publication of the fourth book in the Images of Nature series. Titled Women Artists, it features the artwork from over 100 women artists in the Library & Archives collections.


The exhibition opens on Saturday 8th March which also happens to be International Womens Day - a day which is celebrated in many different ways to recognise the achievements of women but also to raise awareness of the many social, economic, political situations worldwide affecting women.


Public access to the Gallery is free.




It seems extraordinary now, but if you had entered a lottery in 1786, you might have won a whole museum. The tickets were priced at one guinea each, and the museum up for grabs was that of Sir Ashton Lever, collector of natural history and ethnographical specimens.


The museum was based in Leicester Square, London, and contained approximately 27,000 items. Leicester House, a large mansion, cost Lever £600 a year to lease, and when it opened in February 1775 he charged visitors half a guinea to enter, a large sum at the time. Despite the cost, the Leverian Museum proved popular. Those who visited found sixteen rooms of specimens interspersed with corridors lined with cases containing even more items. One room was separate and was billed as containing “very curious monkies and monsters”; ladies were warned that they may not have wished to enter for fear of being disgusted. As well as the specimens, there was a library containing books on natural history. Interestingly, advertisements at the time specify that good fires were to be found in the galleries – not something that one would expect to find in museums now!





As well as the general public, artists and natural historians of the time came to draw and study the exhibitions. Lever added to the collections frequently, stocking the cases with zoological and ethnographical items brought back from expeditions such as those of Captain Cook, from exotic locations such as the Americas, Africa and the Far East.



[Image above] – “Bird display. A perspective view of the grand saloon and gallery [of the Leverian Museum] from A Companion to the [British] Museum (1790) by Sir Ashton Lever.” NHM Picture Library Ref 036756







Sarah Stone (ca.1760-1844), the daughter of a fan painter, began painting at the museum in the late 1770s. Her baptism certificate has not been found, so the precise date of her birth is unknown.  She came to the attention of Lever and was commissioned by him to formally record specimens. Her artwork is considered of great importance as it gives some idea of the species collected by explorers and of the long-since demolished museum. Some of the animals she painted are now extinct, or have endangered populations.


The Library at the Natural History Museum has a large collection of Stone’s watercolours. Many of the known paintings and drawings in existence (over 900 in total) are of birds, such as the image above of a mandarin duck, Aix galericulata.


Stone’s use of colour and shadow, delicate brushwork and faithful representation of her subjects made her work distinctive and admirable at the time. Although these qualities are still prized, some of her drawings can look ‘stiff’ to modern eyes. In particular, the sloth on the left in the picture below looks incapable of climbing its branch. However, this may also be the fault of the taxidermy techniques of the period.


[Image on right]   “Mandarin duck, Aix galericulata. Sarah Stone, 1788.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024290





So who did win the museum? For five weeks after the lottery, no-one knew. Finally James Parkinson, a barrister, came forward to claim his winnings. The chosen ticket had belonged to his late wife and he had only come across it when sorting through her estate.


He owned the museum for twenty years, though kept the ‘Leverian’ name, and oversaw a move to a different site in Albion Place, south of Blackfriars Bridge. Most of Stone’s drawings are dated to before Parkinson took over the museum. In 1806, the collections were broken up and sold at auctions lasting for sixty five days (excluding Sundays and the King’s birthday). Interestingly, two of the lots were Stone’s own watercolours of the specimens.


The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) webpage hosts some books which contain paintings by Sarah Stone. Some examples are here:



You can also see more of Sarah Stone’s artwork in the forthcoming Images of Nature Gallery exhibition on women artists, which will be on display the Museum from March 2014 and is accompanied by a book by Special Collections Librarian Andrea Hart. Keep a look out for forthcoming blogs providing more information about the new exhibition next month and then throughout 2014/2015.




Jackson, C.E. (1998). Sarah Stone: Natural Curiosities from the New Worlds. London: Merrell Publishers Ltd.


[Image below] – “Pale-throated three-toed sloth, Bradypus tridactylus. Sarah Stone, c. 1781-1785.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024334