MEE, Margaret (1909-1988). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite, drawing of a white Bombax flower. Santo Antonio da Bica Sitio in Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro: after 1973.

$ 7,500.00

Single leaf of a field sketchbook (12 6/8 x 9 inches). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite, drawing of a probable white Bombax flower, annotated by Mee in pencil, beneath the image "Robert's Sitio Bombax - ?".

Provenance: from the collection of Margaret and Greville Mee; with Henry Sotheran Ltd, "Margaret Mee: works on paper and printed books", 2010, item 18.

A beautiful delicate painting of a white Bombax flower, which Mee presumably painted at the Santo Antonio da Bica Sitio in Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro, which Mee's close friend and collaborator Roberto Burle Marx purchased in 1949 to accommodate his plant collection, and where he lived from 1973. After Mee's death in 1988, Burle Marx created a "Sombral Margaret Mee" in her honour in the Sitio. Burle Marx gifted the Sitio - which boasts one of the greatest collections of living plants in the world - to the Brazilian Government before his death in 1994, and it was subsequently renamed the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx.

"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