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Darwin Correspondence Project

Marianne North


Marianne North
Marianne North, 1880s, NPG x128767
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Marianne North was born in Hastings where her father became a Liberal MP. Her family supported Marianne’s attempts at singing and painting as suitable activities for a Victorian lady. After her parents died, Marianne sold the family home and began travelling with the aim of painting the flora of different countries. Between 1871 and 1885 Marianne North visited America, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Java, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles and Chile.

During this time she travelled alone through the interior of Brazil for a year and through India for 18 months, often exploring areas unknown to Europeans. Darwin is supposed to have recommended to North that she visit Australia. On her return she visited Down House in 1881, to show the Darwins her paintings of Australian flora. Back in England she approached Kew Gardens to show her work and paid for a gallery to be built to house the collection. It is part of the attractions at Kew today.

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