Single leaf (13 x 9 2/8 inches). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite drawing on paper watermarked C.M. Fabriano, of the orchid Clowesia Warczewitzii, annotated by Mee in pencil below the image "Castasetum Warczewitzii (epiphyte)", above the location "Caatinga - Rio Araca - Am[azonas]" and with the date "Sept - 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 20
A beautiful sketch from Mee's sixth expedition to the Upper Amazons and the Twin Rivers of Sorrow in 1970; journeying into the forest by canoe, "Araken manoeuvred the canoe skilfully into calm waters, and we landed on a rocky shore, part of a great stone which formed the base of the forest through which he led us. We found ourselves in the loveliest glade, green with ferns and mosses, where little streams trickled through rock crevices. On a moss-covered branch I found Clowesia Warczewitzii, and orchid species which had not been seen by botanists for eighty years" (Margaret Mee's Amazon, Woodbridge and Kew: 2004, page 164).
Mee's completed painting of the orchid titled Clowesia Warczewitzii and captioned "Rio Araca, rio Negro, Am. April, 1971" is illustrated on page 167 of "Margaret Mee In Search of Flowers of the Amazon Forests", 1988, and reproduced as here, in Ruth L.A. Stiff's Margaret Mee. Return to the Amazon, London: 1996, page 157.
"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