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Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants

Centered on the paintings of botanical artist Margaret Mee, this exhibit explores the traditions of women botanical artists and illustrators primarily using materials from the Rare Book Collection.

Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants presents twenty stunning paintings of Amazonian flora by the artist, explorer, and environmentalist Margaret Mee (1909–1988) in the Dumbarton Oaks rare book collection. These works, acquired by Dumbarton Oaks founder Mildred Bliss in 1966 and 1967 and dating to Mee’s first three expeditions in the Amazon, have never been displayed together.

The exhibition draws on manuscript and printed works from the rare book collection to situate Mee within the tradition of women botanical artists and illustrators that stretches back to the seventeenth century. Portraits of Plants also interrogates the enduring interplay between art and science through a variety of media (botanical illustration, watercolor, photography) extending to the present day, with works by contemporary photographer Amy Lamb, scientific illustrator Alice Tangerini, and botanical artist Nirupa Rao.

The exhibition is curated by Yota Batsaki, Executive Director of Dumbarton Oaks, and Anatole Tchikine, Curator of Rare Books, with assistance from Leib Celnik, Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow (2019–20), and Ariana Chaivaranon, Humanities Fellow (2018–19).

The online exhibition makes available the resources of the physical exhibition, provides digital tools to build new connections between the geographies and histories of featured artists and illustrators, and centralizes research both from the exhibition and work previously undertaken at Dumbarton Oaks. Learn more in a series of essays, interviews, and additional resources. For the use of images, please see Rights and Reproductions.


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