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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

As a public health precaution, the Museum and Garden are closed temporarily. All public events will be virtual.

We are closely monitoring developments regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and will update our website and social media accounts to reflect any changes to our operations and programming. Please check back for the latest information about our reopening timeline.


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



John S. Rosenberg, “Treasure: An Amazon Artist; Botanical Bounty at Dumbarton Oaks,” Harvard Magazine, May–June 2020.

Dumbarton Oaks Museum Presents Botanical Painter Margaret Mee,” The Georgetown Dish, June 9, 2020.

Tours and Resources

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

Margaret Mee and the Amazon

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

AP World History DBQ

Prepare for the AP World History exam by using a sample Document-Based Question (DBQ) that examines the role of artists, scientists, and other experts in response to the deforestation of the Amazon.

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.

Hummingbird Mobile

Learn about hummingbirds and the plant-bird relationship with this paper craft tutorial. Students will read about hummingbirds and create a hummingbird mobile by scientist and artist Amy Lamb.

Heliconia Pencil Topper

Learn about pollination and co-evolution with this paper craft tutorial.