Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-26T08:31:06.632Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Ellis Rowan: Flower-hunting in the Tropics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2016

Get access


Ellis Rowan was Australia's most celebrated flower painter of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An emancipated woman far ahead of her time, she turned what her fellow Australian artists deemed a ‘genteel’ female pastime of flower painting into an adventurous and profitable career which took her all over the world. In a career spanning fifty years and ending with her death in 1922, she produced the phenomenal number of more than 3000 paintings, and succeeded in placing many of these in public collections. Rowan exhibited her work as far afield as London and New York and achieved acclaim at intercolonial and international exhibitions of art and industry (with the award of ten gold, fifteen silver and four bronze medals). Also a skilled writer and publicist, she recounted her travels in the popular press and in a book entitled A Flower-Hunter in Queensland and New Zealand, published in 1898. This paper focuses on the artist's work in Queensland, a favourite hunting ground, and on her association with the tropics which was an essential part of her mystique.

Special Issue: TROPICAL PLEASURES: A Focus on Queensland Gardens. Papers of the 24th National Australian Garden History Society, Brisbane 11–13 July 2003.
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



1 Rowan, Ellis, ‘An Australian artist's adventures’, New Idea, 6 February 1905.Google Scholar

2 The artist's work and travels in Queensland are studied more fully in Judith McKay, Ellis Rowan: A Flower-Hunter in Queensland (Brisbane: Queensland Museum, 1990).Google Scholar

3 About the time of her Australian visit, Marianne North donated her collection of paintings to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, together with funds to establish a fine gallery to house the collection.Google Scholar

4 Ellis Rowan to Queensland Premier Digby Denham, 6 December 1911, QSA, PRE/A, 1926/5028.Google Scholar

5 Rowan, Ellis, ‘Making of an art collection’, The Oarswoman, Brisbane, December 1912.Google Scholar

6 Robert Bruce to Mrs (Professor) Alfred Cort Haddon, 4 September 1892, Cambridge University Library, Haddon Collection, packet 1006.Google Scholar

7 Frederic Rowan to Queensland Premier Samuel Griffith, 19 August 1887, QSA, COL/A, 1887/6819.Google Scholar

8 Rowan, Ellis, A Flower-Hunter in Queensland and New Zealand (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1898), p. 33.Google Scholar

9 Queensland Parliamentary Debates, of the Legislative Assembly, vol. 64, 30 September 1891, p. 1295.Google Scholar

10 Queensland Agricultural Journal, vol. 1, part 3, 1 September 1897, pp. 230–31.Google Scholar

11 Queensland Agricultural Journal, vol. 28, part 1, January 1912, p. 74.Google Scholar

12 G. H. M. Addison to Under Secretary, 14 December 1911, QSA, PRE/A, 1926/5028.Google Scholar

13 Godfrey Rivers to Queensland Premier, 26 December 1911, QSA, PRE/A, 1926/5028.Google Scholar

14 Rowan, A Flower-Hunter, p. 119.Google Scholar

15 Ellis Rowan cuttings book, National Library of Australia, MS2203, p. 13.Google Scholar

16 Rowan, A Flower-Hunter, pp. 10, 13.Google Scholar

17 Op. cit., p. 32.Google Scholar

18 Henderson, R. J. F., ‘Plants’, in McKay, Ellis Rowan: A Flower-Hunter in Queensland, pp. 6061.Google Scholar

19 An Australian flower painter. Mrs Ellis Rowan’, The Queenslander, 10 August 1895.Google Scholar

20 Argus, Melbourne, 10 December 1904, cited in Judith McKay, ‘Ellis Rowan an Australian flower painter in New Zealand’, Art New Zealand, no. 88, Spring 1998, pp. 8082.Google Scholar

21 Rowan, A Flower-Hunter, p. 6.Google Scholar

22 Op. cit., p. 2425.Google Scholar

23 Op. cit., p. 40.Google Scholar

24 New Idea, 6 January 1905.Google Scholar

25 Casey, Maie, An Australian Story 1837–1907 (London: Michael Joseph, 1962), p. 106.Google Scholar