150 Artists

10/150: Agnes FitzGibbon’s Pioneer Wildflowers

Agnes Dunbar Moodie FitzGibbon (1833-1913) was an important pioneer artist known for her plant paintings. Her works were lithographed and published in the 1869 book Canadian Wild Flowers, done with her aunt, naturalist and author Catharine Parr Traill, (best known for The Backwoods of Canada).

Lady’s Slipper and Blue Flag

FitzGibbon is important because in the 1860s, there were no guidebooks to Canadian flora and she led the way in creating the style and format for describing them. She learned to paint flowers from her mother, Susanna Moodie (author of Roughing it in the Bush and sister of Catharine Parr Traill).

Water Lilly and Pond Lilly

FitzGibbon, a widow in need of income, took lithography lessons. On borrowed stones, she drew the title page and floral plates. The lithographs were printed and sent back to FitzGibbon while her aunt, Parr Traill, wrote the botanical descriptions.

Pitcher Plant

Fitzgibbon and some of her eight children labouriously hand-painted the 5,000 images in the book’s first edition of 500, which sold by subscription for $5.

A short biography, here.

A botanist’s article on the book, here.

A CBC story on a recent display of some of the original paintings, here.

Images: Library and Archives Canada



This is #10 in the series 150 Artists.

4 replies »

    • Great question. I just browsed some used/rare book sites and it may be possible to find one of the 1800s versions. Might take some work. But there’s a reproduction (also looks a bit hard to find) published in 2003, here: http://amzn.to/2n7QjTn (1 copy on Amazon, but probably available other places as well)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is an inspiring bit of Canadian art history…..and it just goes to show how small the Canadian art world has always been – everyone knows everyone!!!!
    I think the waterlily is particularly lush and beautiful.
    Love the idea of the eight kids getting down to work with Mom, helping her hand colour the prints. They probably complained…”O not again – I always have to colour the primrose. Why does Jimmy always get the wild strawberries?”

    Liked by 1 person

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