A Look at the Work of Botanical Artist Maud H. Purdy
Purdy's first project for Brooklyn Botanic Garden was illustrations for Fundamentals of Botany, a textbook by Stuart Gager, the garden’s director. Over the years, she continued to illustrate articles and books by the staff and document plant collections like the garden's Japanese irises and heritage crabapples.
Purdy's striking paintings in gouache on black board were in electrifying contrast to more conventional botanical illustrations done against a white background. Produced over two decades in collaboration with the garden’s botanists and horticulturists, these gouaches were used to illustrate lectures and books.
In her lifetime, Maud Purdy’s botanical art was greatly appreciated for its beauty and educational value, but as photography became more widely used to illustrate botanical texts, her work for Brooklyn Botanic Garden was largely forgotten. Fortunately, many illustrations survived their neglect and were recently rediscovered and brought to light by the garden’s staff.
In 2004, 235 of her paintings, illustrations, and sketches were digitized. An exhibit and catalog, Drawing From Life: Maud H. Purdy and 90 Years of Women Artists at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by Patricia Jonas, brought Purdy’s work to a fresh audience. This exhibit was adapted from that catalog.
Drawing From Life: Maud H. Purdy and 90 Years of Women Artist at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by Patricia Jonas