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Press Release - Major Exhibition Exploring the History of California Wildflowers to Open at The Huntington This Spring

February 05, 2013

 

“When They Were Wild:  Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage,” on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery March 9–July 8 (extended from June 10), is complemented by three exhibitions at other venues and more than a dozen public events.

 

Press Preview: Friday, March 8, 10 a.m. - noon

 

press-2013-wildflowers

 

Clara Mason Fox (1873-1959), Eschscholzia californica, California poppy. Silverado Canyon. Watercolor on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

 


RELATED EXHIBITIONS | PROGRAMS | RESOURCES | IMAGES


 


SAN MARINO, Calif.—In March, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will present a major exhibition exploring a colorful and captivating aspect of California’s natural history:  its wildflowers. “When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage,” on view March 9–July 8 (extended from June 10) in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, will showcase more than 300 items—drawings, paintings, herbarium specimens, and other objects—that trace the journey of California’s plants from the flower fields into the home garden.

 

The exhibition is a collaborative project of The Huntington, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, Calif., and the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants in Sun Valley, Calif. Works from all three collections, along with loans from several other public and private collections, will be on view in the Huntington show, with related displays at the two other institutions and at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. More than a dozen public programs including lectures, workshops, plant sales, and wildflower walks will be offered at The Huntington, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and the Theodore Payne Foundation.

 

“When They Were Wild” draws on a rich heritage of wildflower illustration to take a closer look at California’s natural and cultural history: exploring the source of the state’s floral bounty; how people have used, categorized, and depicted these flowers; and how wildflowers came to represent the state.

 

“We couldn’t be more grateful to be collaborating with our colleagues on this project,  presenting what might be the most ambitious exhibition on the horticultural history of California wildflowers ever mounted,” says Huntington botanical educator Kitty Connolly, who is co-curating the exhibition along with James Folsom, The Huntington’s Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens. “To be working across disciplines, looking at the intersections of science and art, has been especially rewarding.”

 

California has one of the most diverse floras in the world, spread across several distinct floristic provinces—regions of plant distribution defined by shared climate, geology, and geography. Three of the state’s primary provinces are the Californian (chaparral, coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and grassland), Vancouverian (mixed evergreen and coniferous forests), and Desert (cacti and desert scrub).

 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the breathtaking abundance of plants that grew across these regions captured the imagination of a legion of horticulturists, botanists, and amateur naturalists, many of whom were also talented artists. These individuals had a passion for exploring the state’s mountains and valleys, its deserts and coastal regions—a passion that went hand-in-hand with a desire to document the wildflowers that graced the untamed landscape.

 

Among the wildflowers depicted in the exhibition are California’s largest native bloom, Romneya coulteri, commonly known as the Matilija poppy or “fried egg flower”; the wild California peony, Paeonia californica, which grows along the shaded margins of the chaparral ; the lovely “fairy orchid,” Calypso bulbosa, at home in the rich, moist soil of the evergreen forests of the Coast Ranges; the Mojave aster, Xylorhiza tortifolia var. tortifolia; and many representations of the Golden State’s official flower, Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy.

 

Through the work of artists such as Alice Brown Chittenden (1859–1944), Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Ethel Wickes (1872–1940), and James Milford Zornes (1908–2008), the exhibition not only will allow viewers to rediscover the iconic beauty of California’s flora but will underscore the connections between the passion for nature and personal expression. In many instances, the drawings and paintings on view were not meant to be sold or dispersed; they were visual memories and journals, records of the artists’ own personal impressions of the state’s native plants.

 

Yet the artists are not the focal point of “When They Were Wild,” says Connolly. “This exhibition is about the plants themselves and the role they played in the development of California horticulture as many native species passed from wildness into cultivation. Our goal is to place the artworks into their natural historical and horticultural contexts, to shed light on the origins, history, and perhaps the future of California wildflowers.”

 

“When They Were Wild” will be arranged thematically into four sections:

  • Heritage includes the conditions that gave rise to the most diverse flora in the United States as well an impressive array of that diversity depicted in art.
  • Discovery and Use covers pre-European cultivation and use of wildflowers, their treatment as objects of scientific interest, portrayal for their artistic beauty, and domestication for horticultural profit.
  • Cultivation examines how wildflowers were used to shape the image of California at the turn of the 20th century and how home gardeners today have greater opportunity than ever before to grow their own California wildflowers.
  • The Flower Field will surround visitors with a profusion of more than 100 illustrations representing the amazing range and diversity of wildflowers that once covered California.

 

Among the highlights of the exhibition is a painting of a wildflower species that was unknown to science before the artist captured its likeness. The pink mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua var. rosacea) by artist Alice Chittenden was found in 1917 and subsequently named by botanists P. A. Munz and I. M. Johnston. An 1894 watercolor by Eloise Baldwin documents the blooming of Cypripedium montanum (Mountain Lady’s Slipper orchid) in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where it has not been seen in at least 75 years.

 

And “When They Were Wild” will include the first-ever public display of the works of Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), whose lively watercolors capture the plant life of Silverado Canyon in Orange County. Until this exhibition, the paintings resided in the herbarium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden alongside dried and pressed plants, serving as a scientific reference for plant distribution and identity. Forty-six of her works are included in the exhibition and evoke the rural past of Southern California. Additional Fox works will be on view at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

 

In addition to drawings and paintings, the exhibition includes pressed and dried herbarium specimens, photographs, prints, published works by influential experts on California wildflowers such as Philip Munz and Willis Linn Jepson, and ephemera from the 20th century including seed catalogs and other advertisements.

 

To supplement the exhibition, an online database will allow the public to explore in greater detail the rich legacy of illustrations of California flora produced by amateur naturalists. The database will serve as a clearing house of information about wildflower-related works held by The Huntington, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the Theodore Payne Foundation, and other institutions. It will provide a wealth of information about each image—species, collection site, date, and biographical details on the artists—and is being developed principally as a resource for horticulturists, artists, and historians.

“When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage” is made possible by generous support from an anonymous donor in honor of Robert F. and Lois S. Erburu.
 
Additional support was provided by Gwen and Guil Babcock, Judi and Bry Danner, Stephen Rogers, Helen and Peter Bing, Joanne and Ethan Lipsig, Toshie and Frank Mosher, the Ahmanson Foundation Exhibition and Education Endowment, and the J. W. and Ida M. Jameson Foundation.


Related Exhibitions


“Jane Pinheiro Remixed: Reprints of Rare, Mid-Century Wood Blocks in the Theodore Payne Foundation Collection”
March 15 – June 22, 2013
The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants
10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, Calif.
theodorepayne.org
A display of 30 stunning prints of California wildflowers, Joshua trees, and holiday cards by Jane Pinheiro (1907-1978).

“Where They Grow Wild (at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden)”
March 9–June 9, 2013
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 N. College Ave, Claremont, Calif.
rsabg.org
An exclusive display of original artworks from RSABG's archival collections.

“A Celebration of California Wildflowers: Art from the Blaksley Library”
April 1–30, 2013
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Blaksley Library
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, Calif.
sbbg.org
A celebration of California wildflowers featuring several examples of botanical art from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s Blaksley Library Special Collections.

 


Related Programs


At The Huntington

Adult Workshop - Wildflowers at Home
March 16 (Saturday) 9:30 a.m.–noon
Join award-winning floral designer Carolyn Bennett in creating works of art with fresh and dried wildflowers. Huntington Members: $70; Non-Members: $75. Registration through brownpapertickets.com.

Lecture - California Wildflowers and Early California Nurseries
March 23 (Saturday) 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Bart O'Brien, director of special projects at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, talks about the unusual journey that California wildflowers took into California gardens. Book signing follows. Free; no reservations required.

Adult Workshop - Herbarium Tour and Pressed Flower Workshop
March 23 (Saturday) 9:00 a.m.–noon
Learn about the Huntington’s herbarium (a reference collection of preserved plant specimens) on a tour with Paul Meyers. See some of the plants and the art that supports scientific research, then create your own herbarium specimen. Huntington Members: $40; Non-Members: $45. Registration through brownpapertickets.com.

Preschool Series - Wild about Flowers
March 27, April 3, 10 and 17 (Wednesdays) 10 a.m.–noon
Explore the gardens and the exhibition with instructor Laura Moede. Each class includes garden and art projects, stories, and more. Fee includes one accompanying adult. Ages 3-4. Huntington Members: $85; Non-Members: $95. Registration: 626-405-2128.

After-School Adventures - Pressing Flowers
April 10 (Wednesday) 3:30–4:30 p.m.
What’s so wild about wildflowers? Instructor Laura Moede leads youngsters into the garden to explore these fascinating flora. Students make their own pressed flowers to take home as cards or mini masterpieces. Ages 5–6. Fee includes one accompanying adult. Huntington Members: $15; Non-Members: $20. Registration: 626-405-2128.

Second Thursday Garden Talk - California Wildflowers for the Home Garden
April 11 (Thursday) 2:30 p.m.
Bart O’Brien of Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden discusses how to select, grow, and care for California native annuals in the home garden. After the program, the audience is invited to self-tour the “When They Were Wild” exhibition.
Free; no reservations required.

Lecture - Beauty Within and Beauty Without: California’s Native Peoples and Wildflower Fields
April 19 (Friday) 2:30–3:30 p.m.
M. Kat Anderson, botanist and author of Tending the Wild, looks back at the tremendous diversity of California’s wildflower fields and how deeply intertwined wildflowers were with California Indian culture. In exchange for benefits like food, medicine, and ornamentation, indigenous people employed judicious gathering strategies and stewardship of the landscape. Book signing follows. Free; no reservations required.

Second Thursday Garden Talk - Gene Bauer: Paper, Paint and Postage
May 9 (Thursday) 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Gardener, artist and author of Botanical Serigraphs: The Gene Bauer Collection, Gene Bauer tells the story behind her Golden Native serigraphs of the 1970s, some of which are included in “When They Were Wild”. Book signing follows. Free; no reservations required.

Lecture - California’s Wildflower Artists
May 18 (Saturday) 2:30–3:30 p.m.
For more than 100 years, artists have documented the California flora for science, education, and conservation. John Wickham, former president of the Theodore Payne Foundation, discusses the work of a wide range of artists, their stories, and their drive to record this extraordinary flora. Free; no reservations required.

At Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Nature Walk - Wildflower Walks
March 23 – June 9 (Saturdays and Sundays) 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Guided walking tours with RSABG nature interpreters feature beautiful California wildflowers and seasonal highlights. General admission.

Plant Show - California Wildflower Show
March 30 - 31 and April 1 (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
A special exhibition of wildflowers from across the region brought indoors for an intimate viewing. Monday, April 1, is Wildflower Show Senior Day offering free Garden admission and tram tours for visitors over 65. General admission.

Field Trip - Blooms and Beauty of Bighorn Mountain
April 7 (Sunday) 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Naomi Fraga, RSABG conservation botanist and Eric Garton, RSABG director of visitor services, lead this fascinating and beautiful outing to Bighorn Mountain Wilderness in San Bernardino County. The trip highlights a rare transition zone between the mountain regions and Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Roundtrip transportation and lunch are provided. RSABG Members: $65; Non-members: $95. Limited to 10 participants. Registration: 909-625-8767 ext. 224 or registrar@rsabg.org.

Lecture - Clara Mason Fox: Pioneer, Painter, and Poet
April 20 (Saturday) 11 a.m.
Clara Mason Fox, one of the featured artists for the “When They Were Wild” exhibition, is the great aunt of Jon Seeman, co-author with his wife, Lorraine Passero, of Clara Mason Fox: Pioneer, Painer, and Poet of Orange County, California, a book about Clara's life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Book signing follows. General admission.

Lecture - California Wildflowers and Early California Nurseries
April 21 (Sunday) 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s Grow Native Nursery in the Veterans Garden
Bart O'Brien, RSABG Director of Special Projects, talks about the unusual journey that California wildflowers took into California gardens. Book signing follows. General admission.

Lecture - California Wildflowers and Early California Nurseries
May 11 (Saturday) 1–2 p.m.
[See listing above.]

 

At the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants

Poppy Day Plant Sale & Spring Festival
March 23 (Saturday) 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
A seasonal celebration of California’s state flower with a large native plant sale, expert advice, vendors and more. TPF Members receive 15% off plants; Non-members 10%; Memberships available at the door. Registration: 818-768-1802.

Garden Tour - 10th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour
April 6 and 7 (Saturday and Sunday) 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Showcasing more than 40 gardens in the Los Angeles area, each planted with at least 50% California natives, this special ten-year anniversary tour celebrates native landscapes of the past, present and future! TPF Members: $10 per person for both days; Non-members: $15. Available at www.theodorepayne.org or by phone: 818-768-1802.

Field Trip - Wildflower Chase in the San Gabriel Mountains
April 13 (Saturday) 7:30 a.m. –5 p.m.
In this all-day excursion to view spring-blooming annuals and perennials in local mountains, you meet at TPF and travel by van to the most superb flower-filled sites. Lorrae Fuentes is a botanical educator and native plant advocate and producer of the Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline. TPF Members: $75; Non-members: $100. Registration: 818-768-1802.

Adult and Family Workshop - Wildflower Watercolor
April 20 (Saturday) 10 a.m.–noon
Capture the beauty of native spring wildflowers in this hands-on class for budding artists of all ages. No experience necessary. Bring your own hat and water but all other materials provided. Instructor Laura Stickney was TPF’s 2012 Artist in Residence. Free, thanks to a generous gift from Susan & Dan Gottlieb and The G2 Gallery, Venice. Pre-registration is limited and required. Registration: 818-768-1802.

Lecture and Nature Walk - An Introduction to California Native Bees
May 4 (Saturday) 9–11 a.m.
Approximately 1,600 bees are native to California–and all have co-evolved with the native flora. This introduction includes an illustrated talk covering bees’ great diversity followed by a bee walk on TPF grounds. Led by Hartmut Wisch, whose fascination with insect fauna comes from working for 35 years as a naturalist-guide. TPF Members: $20; Non-members: $25. Registration: 909-625-8767 ext. 224.


Resources

   
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 N. College Ave, Claremont, Calif.
rsabg.org
Promotes botany, conservation, and horticulture to inspire, inform, and educate the public and the scientific community about California’s native flora.

Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants
10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, Calif.
theodorepayne.org
Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants is a non-profit California native plant nursery, seed source, book store, and educational center.

Theodore Payne Foundation Wild Flower Hotline
818-768-3533 or theodorepayne.org/hotline.html
Now in its 31st year, provides weekly updates March through May on where to see the best spring wildflower displays in Southern California.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, Calif.
sbbg.org
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden fosters the conservation of California's native plants through our gardens, research and education, and serves as a role model of sustainable practices.

California Native Plant Society
cnps.org
Works to protect California's native plant heritage and preserve it for future generations. Its nearly 10,000 members promote native plant appreciation, research, education, and conservation.

 


Images

Request images

Florence Mekeel (d. 2008), Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri), Hooker’s Evening Primrose, pen and ink on paper. Collection of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Stella Sherwood Vosburg, (1869–1943) Phacelia campanularia ssp.vasiformis, Desert Bells, Mojave Desert. 1929. Watercolor on paper. Private collection.
Florence Mekeel (d. 2008), Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri), Hooker’s Evening Primrose, pen and ink on paper. Collection of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Stella Sherwood Vosburg, (1869–1943) Phacelia campanularia ssp.vasiformis, Desert Bells, Mojave Desert. 1929. Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

 
Ethel Marian Wickes (1872–1940), Calochortus venustus, Mariposa Lily. Watercolor on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.   Sophie Alstrom Mitchell (1858–1940), Calochortus luteus, Mariposa Lily, and Brodiaea elagans, Harvest Brodiaea, 1884. Watercolor on paper.  Private collection.
Ethel Marian Wickes (1872–1940), Calochortus venustus, Mariposa Lily. Watercolor on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.   Sophie Alstrom Mitchell (1858–1940), Calochortus luteus, Mariposa Lily, and Brodiaea elagans, Harvest Brodiaea, 1884. Watercolor on paper.  Private collection.

 
Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Chorizanthe staticoides, Turkish Rugging, Silverado Canyon. Watercolor and graphite on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Dendromecon rigida, Bush Poppy, Silverado Canyon, 1899. Pencil and tempera on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Chorizanthe staticoides, Turkish Rugging, Silverado Canyon. Watercolor and graphite on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Dendromecon rigida, Bush Poppy, Silverado Canyon, 1899. Pencil and tempera on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

 
Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Abronia umbellata var. umbellata, Beach Sand Verbena. Pencil and tempera on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Lupinus succulentus, Arroyo Lupine.  Silverado Canyon.  Watercolor on paper. Collection of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Abronia umbellata var. umbellata, Beach Sand Verbena. Pencil and tempera on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.   Clara Mason Fox (1873–1959), Lupinus succulentus, Arroyo Lupine.  Silverado Canyon.  Watercolor on paper. Collection of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

 
Ethel Marian Wickes (1872–1940),  Spiraea douglasii, Rose Spiraea. Watercolor on paper. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.   Milford Zornes (1908–2008), Diplacus longiflorus, published 1935. Ink and graphite on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Ethel Marian Wickes (1872–1940),  Spiraea douglasii, Rose Spiraea. Watercolor on paper. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.   Milford Zornes (1908–2008), Diplacus longiflorus, published 1935. Ink and graphite on paper. Collection of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

CONTACTS:   Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140, lblackburn@huntington.org
                         Thea Page, 626-405- 2260, tpage@huntington.org 

 

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About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at huntington.org.
 
Visitor Information
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $20 adults, $15 seniors (65+), $12 students (ages 12–18 or with fulltime student I.D.), $8 youth (ages 5–11), free for children under 5. Group rate $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends and Monday holidays: $23 adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, $8 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of each month with advance tickets. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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