Ellis Rowan

Harpullia alata with two Tailed Emperor Butterflies. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Harpullia alata with two Tailed Emperor Butterflies. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Giant Waterlily, Nymphaea pubescens, with a Giant Petaltail dragonfly, Petalura ingentissima. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Giant Waterlily, Nymphaea pubescens, with a Giant Petaltail dragonfly, Petalura ingentissima. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Alpinia racemigera with Ulysses Butterflies, Papilio ulysses Linnaeus. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Alpinia racemigera with Ulysses Butterflies, Papilio ulysses Linnaeus. Watercolour and gouache by Ellis Rowan, 1911.

Marian Ellis Rowan (1848-1922), wildflower painter, was born in Melbourne, Victoria, and began exhibiting her flower paintings in about 1873. After meeting the world-travelling English artist Marianne North in 1880, Ellis Rowan began a life of travel and adventure, stressing the importance of painting her subjects in their natural setting. She travelled in Queensland in 1891, 1892, 1911, 1912 and 1913 to make a fairly systematic record of the flora. In 1912, Ellis exhibited her Queensland paintings in Brisbane. She successfully challenged the state government to buy 125 paintings which are now in the collection of the Queensland Museum.

Ellis included many insects in her paintings. She visited F.P. Dodd in Kuranda and it is said that she painted from specimens in his collection. By coincidence, she started her 1917 expedition to New Guinea on the same ship as Dodd and his son Walter. Ellis also painted butterflies and moths from specimens collected on that expedition. In England, late in her life, she once again painted from butterfly specimens, but just as they appeared, pinned in rows.

The first paragraph is adapted from Brilliant Careers: Women collectors and illustrators in Queensland compiled by Judith McKay (1997), Queensland Museum. This book may be purchased from the Queensland Museum shop.

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