MEE, Margaret (1909-1988). Magnificent original gouache and watercolour over graphite, drawing of the Mother-of-Pearl Flower orchid, Felt-Capped Catasetum, or Catasetum pileatum. Alto Rio Negro: March, 1964.

$ 25,000.00

Single leaf, float-mounted and framed (25 6/8 x 19 inches; framed size 37 x 31 inches). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite drawing on paper of the magnificent flowering Mother-of-Pearl Flower orchid, Felt-Capped Catasetum, or Catasetum pileatum, annotated as such by Mee in pencil, lower right and with the location and date beneath "Cult[ivated]: S. Paulo. / Proc[ured]: Alto Rio Negro. March, 1964", and signed by Mee lower left.

Provenance: with Sotheby's, London, November 13th, 2008, lot 298.

A superb completed gouache of the splendid flowering Mother-of-Pearl Flower, Felt-Capped Catasetum, or Catasetum pileatum, found in Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, at quite high altitudes, and at several locations on the upper Río Orinoco in Amazonas Territory and on the Río Capanaparo in the state of Apure. In Brazil, plants are found in hot, moist lowlands in the states of Pará and Amazonas. 

"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