Banksias & me

In 2014, I began volunteering at the State Library of Victoria as a tour guide.  The regular exhibition training is always interesting and enlightening; being a tour guide has widened my world further.  My favourite exhibition to show people through is the World of the Book, one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the history of book design, production and illustration.

One of the people I learnt about in that first year was Celia Rosser. At the time, the library had a couple of Celia’s Banksia works on display and it was a great pleasure to show them and talk to the public about her and her important work.  Part of being a library tour guide is that you are encouraged to go away and do your own research on items within the collection that particularly interest you.

Celia Rosser is an Australian national living treasure, in my opinion.

Born in 1930, Celia is an Australian botanical illustrator who, over 25 years within the Science Faculty at Monash University, completed a monumental series of works, The Banksias, which were published as a three-volume series of monographs containing watercolour paintings of every Banksia species.  The enormity of the accomplishment continues to astonish me.

Beginning the works in the early 1970s, the publication of the final volume in 2000 represented the first time that such a large genus has been entirely painted.

In in 1995 Celia was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and in 1997 Celia was awarded the Linnaean Society of London’s Jill Smythies Award for botanical illustration. Monash University awarded her an honorary Master of Science degree in 1981, and an honorary PhD in 1999.

In 2018, Hamilton Gallery in western Victoria displayed, for only the second time ever, the full set of watercolour originals which made up The Banksias publications and on a wet May Saturday I saw them and was transfixed.

Since then, I have been reading about, drawing, painting and posting about banksias.

The hashtag #banksiafriday is a fun one to join on Instagram.

Recommended reading

George, Alex (2012) A Banksia Album: Two Hundred Years of Botanical Illustration, National Library of Australia, Canberra

Landon, Carolyn (2015) Banksia Lady Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist, Monash University Press, Melbourne

Nikulinsky, Philippa (1992) Firewood Banksia: Illustrated Native Flora, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, North Fremantle

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