Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892), [Gracile Flower]
Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892)
Watercolors of Odontoglossum or American Orchids
Watercolor on Wove paper
London, ca. 1874
Sheet size: 21 1/2 x 15"
Frame size: 31 3/4 x 25 1/2"
Yet the hand-colored lithographs that were published, while stunning, did not approach the depth of color and nuance to be found in Fitch's original watercolors, mainly preserved today in the Royal Collection at Kew Gardens. The watercolors being offered here were discovered recently, and clearly intended as the unique prototypes for a second volume on the Odontoglossum. Despite the fact that Fitch created these flawless watercolors that more than rivaled the images of the first edition, the sequel was never brought to completion, and remains unrecorded even in its planning stages. That being said, it is difficult to approximate in words the vivid beauty of Fitch's original compositions. The artist captured with outstanding naturalism and vibrancy the alternate subtlety and flamboyance of the American orchids, the textures of their soft, often translucent petals and opaque leaves and stems. Each defining characteristic is illuminated in profound detail, creating a suite of the most breathtakingly beautiful, large-scale images of orchids to come on the market.
As noted, with the aid of such striking imagery, Fitch was largely responsible for creating an orchid mania in Victorian Britain. Huge greenhouses were built, and adding to such enthusiasm was the fact that Britain enjoyed a brisk trade in botanical specimens, and there was soon a proliferation of illustrated periodicals for horticulturists at every level of experience. Though many followed in Fitch's footsteps, his contribution to English botanical art is unique. Many of the orchids immortalized in his watercolors have since been lost to cultivation, while some are exceedingly rare, and still others extinct.
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