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Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants

Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants presents 20 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 print works from the rare book collection to situate Mee within a 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.

This exhibition is curated by Yota Batsaki, Executive Director, and Anatole Tchikine, Curator of Rare Books, with assistance from Leib Celnik, Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow. 

For directions to Dumbarton Oaks and opening hours, visit us online.

Online Exhibit

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Dumbarton Oaks Response to COVID-19

Out of an abundance of caution, the Museum and Garden will be closed temporarily beginning Saturday, March 14. In addition, Dumbarton Oaks will cancel all public events through the end of May.

We are closely monitoring developments regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and will update our website to reflect any changes to our operations and programming.


Exhibition Events

Lecture Series, Fridays @ 3 p.m
Thirty-minute illustrated talks by contributing artists, curators, and scientists, followed by a Q&A session

Margaret Mee and the Tradition of Botanical Representation
Yota Batsaki and Anatole Tchikine, Exhibition Curators, Dumbarton Oaks

Paints and Pens in the Service of Botany
Alice Tangerini, Staff Illustrator, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Plant Exploration and Species Discovery in a Rapidly Changing World
John Kress, Distinguished Scientist and Curator Emeritus, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Patterns in Nature: Perspectives of a Botanical Photographer
Amy Lamb, Cellular Biologist and Botanical Photographer


Gallery Talks, Thursdays @ 3 p.m.
Fifteen-minute gallery talks with curatorial fellow Leib Celnik

July 9, July 23, August 6, August 15. Meet in the Museum lobby.

Tours and Resources

We welcome student visits; for educational tours and inquiries please contact

Margaret Mee and the Amazon

Grades: Middle and high school (6–12)
Subject: Science, history, visual arts, and English language arts
Time required: 45 minutes

Using the Heliconia plant species as a case study, students will explore an Amazon Rainforest ecosystem and the effects of deforestation.

View Lesson Plan Download Materials

Coloring Sheets

Bring nature inside with these coloring pages of plants, taken from works by botanical artists of the 19th and 20th centuries featured in the online exhibit.