Ellis Rowan The Flower Hunter

One of our favourite heroines is the beguiling and adventurous Australian artist Ellis Rowan, better known as ‘the lady flower-painter’. Marian Ellis Ryan (1848-1922) was born in Melbourne, Victoria. At a very young age and with no formal training in art, Ellis started to produce works of flowers, birds, insects and butterflies. At the age of 25 Ellis married Frederic Rowan, who was interested in botany and encouraged his wife to paint. Rather then staying in the drawing room, Ellis traveled independently and often, to remote and tropical locations in order to illustrate flowers in their surroundings. A woman ahead of her time.


Ellis Rowan’s remarkable skill was to apply watercolour paints and gauche quickly and without the guide of a pencil sketch. She produced artistic compositions of flowers in their native habitat rather than rudimentary botanical works. Botanists found Rowans works too artistic and art critics found her paintings too scientific. Rowan never claimed to be a botanical artist and yet despite criticism she produced and sold hundreds of botanically significant works.


So, in the spirit of our fellow flower hunter, Gardenbird Flowers is a seasonal blend of artistry, botany and adventure.  From time to time we’ll share our floral frolics on the Gallery page as well as in our Adventures journal.  Welcome!



Images above care of the National Gallery of Australia. Clockwise from top: National Library of Australia.  [200-?],  Ellis Rowan [electronic resource] : the flower hunter  National Library of Australia Canberra | Rowan, Ellis.  1886,  Parahebe perfoliata, Pimelea axiflora, Prostanthera rotundifolia, Stellaria pungens, 1886 [picture] / Ellis Rowan an6649705 | Longstaff, John.  1926,  Memorial portrait of Mrs Ellis Rowan, flower painter and authoress [picture] / J. Longstaff  an2310713 | Rowan, Ellis.  [188-?],  Doryanthes excelsa Corr. Serr., family Doryanthaceae [picture] / [Ellis Rowan] an7677462 | Rowan, Ellis.  1886,  Parahebe perfoliata, Pimelea axiflora, Prostanthera rotundifolia, Stellaria pungens, 1886 [picture] / Ellis Rowan  an6649705 | Peince.  1887,  Ellis Rowan sketching Mary Moule sitting on the ground / Peince an21411729

Gardenbird Flowers Brisbane Florist | The Plant Hunter Ellis Rown Book Cover National Library of Australia

Continue the adventure via these extra links: Ellis Rowan: The Flower Hunter, ABC Artworks Broadcast 27 July 2008 Presented by Amanda Smith | Rowan Collection, The National Library of Australia | Ellis Rowan: Flower-Hunting in the Tropics, Dr Judith McKay, CitiLibraries Lecture 2008