No history of orchids in any country could be complete without paying homage to the botanical artist. The essence of no other plant family has been captured to such perfection in painting than that of the orchid. Their exquisite works have amazed us but have also been of immense value to taxonomy in a manner the camera has seldom achieved. Here we list a few of the prominent Irish orchid artists.
Susan Sex lives in Dublin and is widely regarded as Ireland’s finest living orchid artist. She has won several RHS gold medals for her outstanding watercolours and has several landmark publications on Irish orchids in partnership with Brendan Sayers of the Glasnevin Botanical Gardens (see our resources section for details).
Margareta Pertl is Austrian by birth but has developed a close association with Ireland and her beautiful watercolours are much loved here. She has thrice been honoured with the prestigious Fűger Prize in Austria and has received amongst many other accolades, a silver medal from the RHS. Since 1998 she has been painting tropical orchids from the Irish national collection at Glasnevin as well as from the Botanischer Garden Wien in her native homeland.
Reproduction of orchid paintings by kind permission of Margareta Pertl
Deborah Lambkin was born in Ireland and trained at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She currently lives in London and is the official orchid artist to the RHS Orchid Committee since 2005 and has since painted over 200 orchids. She also contributes paintings to Curtis's Botanical Magazine regularly.
Reproduction of orchid paintings by kind permission of Martin Rix - editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Wendy Walsh (1915 - 2014)
Born in Cumbria, England she has lived in Ireland for over fifty years. A precocious and unsurpassed watercolour artist of Irish wildflowers and wildlife she has published many books and produced designs for postage stamps, textiles and pottery. Her accolades include several RHS gold medals.
Raymond Piper (1927 - 2007)
Born in London, he moved to Belfast when he was six. He became a respected portrait artist but it was orchids that captured his heart while on a visit to Cork in 1960 and he then went on to devote his talents to them. In 1974 his studies were exhibited in the Natural History Museum in London and that year he was awarded the coveted RHS John Lindley Medal.
Lydia Shackleton (1828 - 1914)
Born in Ballitore, County Kildare into a wealthy family she undertook commissioned work at the Glasnevin Botanic Gardens from 1884 to 1907 under the then curator Sir Frederick Moore. She completed an astonishing 1400 botanical portraits many of which depicted the individual flower, a trade-mark of her style. Much of her work is retained for posterity in the Botanical Gardens Library.