Wildflowers bloom in D.C.

May 15, 1994|By Chuck Myers | Chuck Myers,Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service

Each year, the advent of spring is heralded by an array of flower and garden shows around the country.

A floral display of a very different kind recently blossomed in our nation's capital -- not, as one might expect, at the National Arboretum, but inside a museum.

American artist-naturalist Mary Vaux Walcott spent her creative life depicting through watercolor paintings the colorful wildflowers she encountered on extensive travels to the America and Canadian Far West.

Today, 50 of her wonderful wildflower paintings, drawn from the 791 of her works held by the museum, highlight the Smithsonian Institution's own celebration of spring, in a display now on view at the National Museum of American Art.

Born in 1860, Vaux Walcott was the eldest child of a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family. Nurtured by her mother's own interests in botany and art, she enrolled in art class at an early age. In 1881 she made her first journey to the western United States, beginning a lifetime of travels.

Vaux Walcott's works reveal a keen attention to detail and variety. Set against colorless backgrounds, her flowers are often shown in multiple frontal and profile views.

The wide selection of roses, azaleas and lilies on view are not unlike those found in many household gardens. Many of her other flowers, however, are unfamiliar and more exotic.

Vaux Walcott's interests were hardly limited to painting. She helped her brothers make photographic surveys of the far West, and later emerged as a noted authority of glacial formations.

FLORAL ART

What: "North American Wildflowers: Watercolors by Mary Vaux Walcott"

Where: The National Museum of American Art, at 8th and G streets N.W., Washington

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, through Aug. 29

Admission: Free

$ Call: (202) 357-1300

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