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Elizabeth Twining (British, 1805-1889), A Fine Collection of Original Watercolor Botanical Drawings

  • $ 250,000.00

Elizabeth Twining (British, 1805-1889)
A Fine Collection of Original Watercolor Botanical Drawings

223 fine original watercolor botanical drawings (11 5/8 x 9 in), each inscribed by the artist with their Latin name, common name, and where and when the specimen was collected. Preserved in 5 modern vinyl folders with pockets.
Provenance: with correspondence to and from the Misses A. and F. Wilkinson and the British Museum (Natural History), Department of Botany, dated 1962; with correspondence to and from Mrs. D.M.P. Phillips and the Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries regarding an exhibition of the watercolors in 1974.

An exceptionally fine collection of original watercolor drawings of British flowers by Elizabeth Twining.  Elizabeth was the second of nine children of Richard Twining (1772-1857), the celebrated tea-merchant and banker. A carte de visite signed by Twining and dated 1886 is enclosed, as is a complete index, hand, and type-written. “She was a talented portraitist of plants and flowers as well as being a competent botanist. The two-volume folio edition of her ‘Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants’ (2 vols., 1849) considered having a place among the most beautiful lithographic flower books of the mid-nineteenth century. The ‘natural order’ is that of Alphonse de Candolle, who rejected the Linnaean or ‘artificial’ classification. The emphasis on the appearance of mature plants and their habitat rather than their physiology is echoed not only in her art but also in her lectures on plants, which, as well as having a robust geographical theme, also discussed how plants were used, particularly by women. She believed botany had a place in the education of women of all social classes and her approach was that of ‘mother educator,’ whether she was encouraging the poor to grow plants for flower shows or promoting the cultivation of window boxes in institutions such as workhouse wards, where the glory of plants could be shared by sick inmates and staff alike” (Theresa Deane for DNB). Twining’s original watercolors for the “Natural Orders of Plants” are held in the extensive collection of botanical art at the Natural History Museum in London. They were gifted to the Museum in 1962 by the Misses A. and F. Wilkinson.


Elizabeth Twining was born into an illustrious Twinings tea family. One of nine siblings, she was raised in London and was afforded the best education that could be provided in the day, including drawing and art lessons, travel, and access to many famous museums. A great admirer of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, she was inspired to draw plants from life at famous gardens, including the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and Lexden Park in Colchester. Her drawings were used to illustrate a number of books on the subject of botany, most notably the two-volume Illustrations of the Natural Order of Plants (volume I in 1849, volume II in 1855), which included a total of 160 hand-colored lithographs.

Today, Elizabeth Twining would be considered a woman activist. In her own time, she joined the select group of extraordinary women botanical artists such as Maria Merian and Elizabeth Blackwell.  Twining set up and managed a temperance hall, renovated the parish almshouses near her Twickenham home, and, after a long association with King’s College Hospital, she established the Saint John’s hospital for the treatment of the poor. She was the first to organize “mothers meetings” in London, for which she wrote ‘’Ten Years in a Ragged School and Readings for Mothers Meetings,” and contributed to the founding of the Bedford College for Women by Elizabeth Jesser Reid.

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