Saturday, 16 May 2015

From White Horses to the shores of Tahiti

Dipping into Barbara Euphan Todd's "South Country Secrets" led me by strange association of memories from the Vale of the White Horse at Uffington to Kew Gardens and on to Tahiti.  Her narrative mentions the discovery of nine hundred old swords from the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath being used as railings round the young trees at the Botanic Gardens of Kew.    The expert who spotted them under their regulation green paint in the early 1900s persuaded the government to let him take them away and replace them with new fencing at his own cost.  

Was it the green ironwork which subconsciously called to mind the Botanic Garden's unique Marianne North gallery ?  This Victorian artist travelled around the globe through the 1870s, recording tropical plants and their habitats in vivid oil paintings, to be displayed in a specially designed gallery. 

The Marianne North Gallery, Kew
© Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Interior, Marianne North Gallery
© Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Orchids of Tropical Asia,  Marianne North
Nepenthes Northiana, Borneo, c. 1876
Marianne North, © Royal Botanic Gardens 

The impact of six hundred glowing paintings covering every wall, transports you to another world, and conjured up strange memories of the green lushness of far away Tahiti.  And it was in Tahiti that I discovered Gauguin's work (albeit in facsimile)  in the green shade of the Paul Gauguin Museum.   

Cascade at Tji Boddas, Java c. 1876
Marianne North © Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Fatata te Miti ( by the sea)  Paul Gauguin 1892
© National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Bathers  Paul Gauguin
© Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

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