MEE, Margaret (1909-1988). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite, drawing of the Bignoniaceae flower. Uaupes: 1964-1965.

$ 7,500.00

Single leaf (13 x 9 4/8 inches). Original gouache and watercolour over graphite drawing on paper watermarked Raffaello Fabriano, of the Bignoniaceae flower, annotated by Mee in pencil below the image with the location and the date "Uaupes 1964-1965" and further annotated by her with the number "49".

Provenance: from the collection of Margaret and Greville Mee; with Henry Sotheran Ltd, "Margaret Mee: works on paper and printed books", 2010, item 17.

A beautiful field painting of a Bignonia collected in Rio Uaupes during Mee's third expedition, to "The Far North", in 1964. It seems probable that this is the species that Mee refers to in the text accompanying her painting of a Distictella magnifolia dated December 1964: "I was eager to collect another species of this family which had proved so elusive. I had succeeded in getting one Bignonia in this region of the Rio Uaupes, further towards the east, I had found bell-shaped flowers on the ground of the fiorest, but under the high, dark trees with the tangled canopy above, it had been impossible to trace from which liana or tree they had fallen. Days after I had found this same species with one spray of flowers, just outside the jungle. The colour of the burgundy petals was so deep and velvety that in the shadow the tones appeared black" (Flowers of the Brazilian Forest, London: 1968, number 12). 

"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