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Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants

March 24–August 23, 2020

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.

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Exhibition Events

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

April 10, Founders Room
Yota Batsaki and Anatole Tchikine, Exhibition Curators, Dumbarton Oaks

April 17, Founders Room
Alice Tangerini, Staff Illustrator, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

May 22, Founders Room
John Kress, Distinguished Scientist and Curator Emeritus, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

May 29, Bliss Gallery
Amy Lamb, Plant Artist

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

April 23, May 7, May 21, 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: Guided School Tour and Ecosystem Workshop
Available April 1–May 29, 2020
Recommended for 6th–12th graders

Using the Heliconia plant species as case study, students will explore an Amazonian ecosystem and the effects of deforestation. Students will construct an ecosystem model, examine the interconnected plant-bird relationship, discuss the impact of deforestation and climate change, and consider how to help protect the Amazon rainforest as youth activists.

Learn more