EXHIBITIONS | Coming Up Wildflowers

Before he went on to a successful career in design, Albert Richard Stockdale (1909–1970) painted botanical specimens as a student at Pasadena City College. His artworks, and more than 3,000 herbarium specimens, came to The Huntington in 2009. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Before he went on to a successful career in design, Albert Richard Stockdale (1909–1970) painted botanical specimens as a student at Pasadena City College. His artworks, and more than 3,000 herbarium specimens, came to The Huntington in 2009. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

While the genesis of “When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage” was The Huntington’s collections of wildflower paintings by Alice Chittenden and Ethel Wickes, other collections made their way into the exhibition through unexpected routes.

One collection was originally among the plant specimens of the Pasadena City College (PCC) herbarium, which was donated to The Huntington in 2009. An herbarium is an organized collection of pressed, dried plant specimens, a sort of reference library of plants. Researchers use herbarium specimens to verify the identity of plants, document their distribution, and study plant classification and relationships within and among species. Along with about 3,000 specimens, the PCC collection also includes about 25 flower paintings by students, including those by Albert Richard Stockdale (1909–1970), who went on to have a successful career in design. We included four of his works in the exhibition.

“When They Were Wild” includes 45 paintings by Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), including her watercolor of Keckiella cordifolia. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

“When They Were Wild” includes 45 paintings by Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), including her watercolor of Keckia cordifolia. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

It isn’t unusual for collections of wildflower paintings to be treated as scientific documents. For many years, Clara Mason Fox’s (1873–1959) watercolors were treated like the rest of the herbarium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. As the exhibition’s curators, we recognized the scientific and aesthetic value of her paintings, so we included 45 of them in the show. The exhibition also includes 14 pieces by Sophie Fauntleroy (ca. 1872–1948) and 15 by Stella Sherwood Vosburg (1869–1943). The Fauntleroy and Sherwood pieces were part of a project that Alice Eastwood (1859–1953) started during her 58 years in the botany department at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

We located another collection through a chance relationship between a board member of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and a family member of Rose Frances Kittredge Cronise (1870–1959), whose 189 paintings now reside at the Thatcher School in Ojai. With the board member’s help, we contacted the school librarian, who was happy to loan 14 of Cronise’s works to the show.

There are many individual works and whole collections of California wildflower paintings waiting to be discovered. Maybe it’s time to take a look in the attic!

The exhibition also includes 14 works by Rose Frances Kittredge Cronise (1870–1959), including Iris macrosiphon. Thatcher School, Ojai, Calif.

The exhibition also includes 14 works by Rose Frances Kittredge Cronise (1870–1959), including Iris macrosiphon. Thatcher School, Ojai, Calif.

“When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage” is on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery at The Huntington through July 8, 2013.

Kitty Connolly is the botanical interpretation manager in The Huntington’s education department.

3 thoughts on “EXHIBITIONS | Coming Up Wildflowers

  1. This exhibit is wonderful. Encompasses information and beauty of California flora with it’s ecological roots imbedded in our State, which Henry Huntington loved so much. Richness of all the art work and diversity of styles takes us deeper in knowing our State’s botanical richness. Insight view through the eyes of the first and amazed with California plants explorers, and now so much of it gone, yet often possible to cultivate in our gardens. Beautiful drawings! Not to be missed exhibit!

  2. I have come across a pencil sketch by Albert Richard Stockdale dated 1950. It looks as though you have dealt with his artwork before and I didn’t know if this is something you’d be interested in.

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