The Country Flowers of a Victorian Lady

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9780060197032: The Country Flowers of a Victorian Lady

Hailed by the press as a publishing phenomenon, The Country Flowers of a Victorian Lady is a classic work that will "change the way we look at flowers forever" (Mail on Sunday, London).

Over the past 150 years Fanny Robinson's "Book of Memory," as she called it, has been enjoyed as a treasured heirloom by her family. Now, for the first time, her beautiful work -- arguably the most exquisite collection of Victorian flower paintings in existence -- can be appreciated by all.

Fanny's exceptional book combines elegant watercolors with evocative poetry that is finely illuminated in the manner of a medieval Book of Hours. Using the symbolic Language of Flowers, she invests each flower grouping with subtle and often highly romantic meanings -- indeed, it is thought that the volume was intended as a lasting tribute to a lost lover.

In her fascinating commentary on the paintings, Gill Saunders, a senior curator in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, explains the intriguing floral symbolism and takes the reader on a delightful journey into Fanny Robinson's leisured and cultivated world of flower, pen and brush.

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Review:

With its wealth of charming watercolors, poems, and notes on the language of flowers, The Country Flowers of a Victorian Lady is destined to be a coffee-table fixture in the home of any lover of old-fashioned flowers. Kept as a private family keepsake for several generations, this gorgeous book was originally created by Fanny Robinson, who lived a quiet English country life in the last half of the 19th century. The rich, creamy paper provides a perfect backdrop for Robinson's drawings, and for those who have difficulty reading ornate penmanship, her fanciful poetry is copied onto each painting's facing page in an easily readable typeface. Most flowers tend toward the fragrantly romantic--scented geraniums, violets, pansies, and rosebuds of all types appear frequently--and researcher Gill Saunders provides fascinating comments on the historical language of flowers, providing a contextual framework to Robinson's poetry and pictures. One print shows a flowing nosegay of pansies, fuchsia, yew, and Canterbury bells, with this accompanying poem: "I have here only a nosegay of culled / flowers and have brought nothing / of my own, but the string that ties them." When we learn that pansies were sent to loved ones as a token of remembrance, and that yew was "an emblem of sadness and sorrow," readers are given a clear view not just of exquisite art but of the emotions that gave rise to that particular painting. There are plenty of happier pages as well--seasonal celebrations, love poems, memories of childhood--that gardeners, historians, poets, and artists will love. You'll want to send a thank-you bouquet to this talented woman for the generous gift of her closing poem: "The fruits I have gathered of memory / the ripened harvest of my musings / these I give unto thee." --Jill Lightner

About the Author:

Gill Saunders is a senior curator in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Gill recently spent a year as a lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Sussex. She has written on a variety of artistic subjects, and he publications include Recording Britain: A Pictorial Doomsday of Pre-war Britain and Picturing Plants: An Analytical History of Botanical Illustration.

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