Single sketch book leaf, float-mounted and framed (12 x 9 inches; framed size: 23 x 19 inches). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite drawing on paper of the beautiful flowering , Heterostemon mimoscoides, annotated as such by Mee in pencil above the image, and further annotated with the location and date "Rio Araca, Amazonas - Caatinga Oct 1970."
Provenance: from the collection of Margaret and Greville Mee; with Henry Sotheran Ltd, "Margaret Mee: works on paper and printed books", 2010, item 19.
A beautiful field-sketch of a Heterostemon mimoscoides from the Caatinga (ie forest growing on light, sandy soil). In her diary of her sixth expedition, to the "Upper Amazons" and the Twin Rivers of Sorrow, in 1970, Mee recorded, "we reached Sumauma [...] there I found Heterostemon mimoscoades, a small tree growing in the igapo [ie forest permanently flooded by black water rivers], with large purple flowers resembling Bauhinia in form. I tried to paint the delicate blooms which began to wilt as soon as they were gathered but [...] this was impossible [...] My next encounter with this beautiful tree, with its amethyst flowers and deep green leaves that resemble those of Mimosa, was on the Rio Cuieiras, a tributary of the great Rio Negro. There, seated in my boat, I was successful in capturing the colour and form before the fragile flowers drooped and faded [...] Adolpho Ducke, the great Brazilian botanist, described [the flower] as "Probably the most beautiful of all Brazilian leguminosae"" (M. Mee Flores do Amazonas. Flowers of the Amazon. Sao Cristovao, Rio de Janeiro: 1980, number 2).
"Unlike Amazon botanical artists before her, Margaret worked entirely from living plants. Her fifteen expeditions into the interior, mostly to Amazonia, involved travelling and living under the most primitive conditions. She would draw at night by torchlight to capture rare nocturnal flowers, and this immediacy gave her paintings an accuracy, depth, and colour unrivalled by her predecessors. Her travels coincided with the beginning of the commercial exploitation of the forest, and she expressed her fury at the damage caused to the land and its peoples" (DNB).
Margaret Mee first visited Brazil in 1952 in order to care for her sister Catherine, who was ill. She soon settled there with her husband Greville Mee and it was a few years later that she made her first expedition up the Amazon. Over the next 32 years she made a number of further trips up the Amazon and in coastal areas of Brazil, some of them lasting for four months. During these years, she continued to paint and draw what she saw and kept diaries of her travels, later published. In 1988, shortly after completing another Amazon trip, Mee came to England to lecture to the Royal Geographic Society and to attend the opening of an exhibition of her paintings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. During this visit, she was tragically killed in a car crash. Catalogued by Kate Hunter