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Ellis Rowan (1848–1922) is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. Best known for her striking wildflower paintings—many of which are held by the National Library of Australia—Rowan also had an interest in birds. In 1916 and 1917, when she was almost 70 years old, she had the opportunity to fulfil a long-held desire to spend time painting professionally in New Guinea. There, she created numerous pictures of the region’s Birds of Paradise (Paradisaeidae) and wildflowers. With the assistance of Indigenous Papuan people, she was able to paint most of the 42 species of Birds of Paradise, before completing some works from specimens back in Australia.
Drawing together material from the Library’s vast Rowan holdings, this exhibition presents some of Ellis Rowan’s best paintings from this period and provides an opportunity to engage with a less familiar part of her work.
Birds of Paradise - Ellis Rowan in New Guinea was curated by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll.