Australian artist Margaret Preston (1875 – 1963) painted or printed many of her native species to great acclaim. Below we take a look at some of those artworks to learn a little about the plants that were her willing subjects. Her work is so vibrant and characterful, it is wonderful to be able to view so many of them online via the National Gallery of Australia online catalogue. Here you can learn more about Preston, her life and how she turned out to be an influential exponent of the Australian modernist art movement of the 1920s and 30s.
Banksia is a genus of just over 170 species in the plant family Proteaceae. All but one are native to Australia and were named after Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) who first collected specimens of these plants in 1770 to bring back to Europe. They are easily identifiable by their characteristic flower spikes and fruiting cones.
Banksia Tree, 1939
Banksia cobs, 1933
Banksia and Fungus, 1936
Christmas Bells is the common name for the species Blandfordia nobilis, a perennial herb native to eastern Australia. A member of the recently recognised (2009) plant family Blandfordiaceae, it is one of only four species in this group. Blandfordia, the sole genus, was named by English botanist James Edward Smith in 1804 to honour the Marquis of Blandford.
Christmas bells, 1925
Waratah is the common name for the endemic genus Telopea from the plant family Proteaceae. It contains five species of large shrubs or small trees found in southeastern parts of Australia. The most well-known species is Telopea speciosissima (probably the species rendered by Preston below), which has bright red flowers and is the state emblem of New South Wales.
Protea [Waratahs], 1925
Hakeas, just like banksias and waratahs, are from the plant family Proteaceae. There are over 140 species of shrubs and small trees within this genus and are distributed all over Australia with the highest species diversity in the south west of Western Australia, where you will find Hakea petiolaris otherwise known as Sea-urchin Hakea
Tea-tree and Hakea petiolaris, 1936