SPECIAL ROOM MARGARET MEE
Margaret Mee’s love
affair with Brazilian plant life started in 1952, when she visited São
Paulo to care for her sick sister. This visit was to last a lifetime,
full of adventures, travels and delight.
Born in a provincial town near London in 1909, Margaret Mee studied
at the Camberwell School of Art, and was tutored by Victor Pasmore.
Her early work was focused on the human figure and gave no hint of what
her artistic future held: the documentation of the wonders of Brazilian
plant life. A self-taught botanist, she allied acute artistic sensibility
with scientific accuracy, resulting in the most perfect expression of
the art of botanical illustration. She taught art at St. Paul’s
School in São Paulo, but missed no opportunity to visit the surrounding
countryside. In 1956, she went further afield and travelled to the Amazon
at the outset of what would be a lifetime of journeys to the region’s
rivers and jungles. At the suggestion of her friends Prof. Luiz Emygdio
de Mello Filho and Roberto Burle Marx, she moved to Rio and lived in
the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. She made 15 journeys to
the Amazon, and recognized that she would need six lives to paint all
the plants she saw.
In 1988 she visited England for the launch of her travel diaries and
a highly successful exhibition of her work at the Royal Botanic Gardens,
Kew. She died in a car smash while visiting friends in the north of
England. Her ashes were scattered on her beloved Rio Negro.
A profound respect for the environment, a passionately held desire to
see it spared the actions of predators and an inestimable contribution
to the art of botanical illustration constitute her legacy.