Alice Tangerini is a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Alice Tangerini es una ilustradora científica para el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural del Smithsonian.

Botanical art and illustration provided women with a path into the scientific world at a time when there were few female scientists. Women who had the talent, opportunity, and means became professional botanical artists and illustrators. Although they were often overlooked and underappreciated in their field, women made lasting contributions to our understanding of botany. 

Learn about three women whose art transformed our view of orchids.

El arte y la ilustración botánicos ofrecieron a las mujeres una vía hacia el mundo científico cuando en este era poca la presencia femenina. Las que tenían talento, oportunidad y medios se convirtieron en artistas e ilustradoras botánicas profesionales. Aunque en general eran ignoradas y poco apreciadas en su campo, las mujeres hicieron aportes perdurables al conocimiento de la botánica.

Aprende acerca de tres mujeres que con su arte transformaron nuestra visión de las orquídeas.

Blanche Ames

Artist and Activist

American artist Blanche Ames (1878–1969) was one of the foremost botanical illustrators of hertime. For 50 years, she traveled the world with her husband, renowned orchidologist Oakes Ames, documenting rare orchids with her detailed pen-and-ink drawings.

Blanche Ames

Artista y activista

La artista estadounidense Blanche Ames (1878–1969) fue una de las principales ilustradoras botánicas de su época. Pasó 50 años viajando por el mundo con su esposo, el distinguido orquideólogo Oakes Ames, y documentó orquídeas raras en detallados dibujos a pluma y tinta. Feminista franca, Ames defendió incansablemente el sufragio y los derechos reproductivos femeninos.

Blanche Ames
In addition to being an artist and activist, Blanche Ames was a political cartoonist and an inventor with several patents.
Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
Goodyera pubescens by Blanche Ames
Blanche Ames used a microscope and an optical device called a camera lucida to capture the intricate details of orchids. Goodyera pubescens by Blanche Ames
Rhodora, 1922, plate 135
Angraecum and Urania Moth of Madagascar by Marianne North
North’s paintings showed orchids in their natural habitats with other plants and animals. “She could never bear to see flowers uselessly gathered—their harmless lives destroyed,” wrote her sister.
Angraecum and Urania Moth of Madagascar by Marianne North. Orchid pictured: Angraecum sesquipedale, Darwin’s Orchid.
© The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Marianne North

Intrepid Explorer

British botanical artist Marianne North (1830–1890) defied convention by traveling independently to remote regions of the world, where she recorded rare plants with her paintbrush. Her supporters included naturalist Charles Darwin. Today, more than 800 of her paintings cover the walls of the Marianne North Gallery at London’s Kew Gardens.

Marianne North

Intrépida exploradora

La artista botánica inglesa Marianne North (1830–1890) desafió las convenciones viajando por su cuenta a regiones remotas, dondedocumentó plantas raras con su pincel. Entre los que la apoyaban estuvo el naturalista Charles Darwin. Hoy, más de 800 de suspinturas cubren las paredes de la Galería Marianne North en los Jardines Kew de Londres.

Marianne North
Marianne North traveled to five continents and 17 countries in pursuit of plants to paint.
© The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Regina Hughes

Unstoppable Illustrator

Regina Hughes (1895–1993) studied art at Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University for the deaf. She worked as a botanical illustrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for nearly 40 years. After retiring from USDA, Hughes volunteered at the Smithsonian, where she continued to illustrate plant specimens, including many orchids, until the age of 95.

Regina Hughes

Ilustradora imparable

Regina Hughes (1895–1993) estudió arte en la Universidad Gallaudet para sordos, en Washington D.C. Trabajó como ilustradora botánica en el Departamento de Agricultura de EE.UU. (USDA) durante casi 40 años. Al retirarse del USDA, hizo trabajo voluntario en el Smithsonian, donde siguió ilustrando especímenes de plantas, incluidas numerosas orquídeas, hasta la edad de 95 años.

Regina Hughes
Hughes was the first deaf artist to have her artwork displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Courtesy Gallaudet Archives
Paphiopedilum purpuratum by Regina Hughes
Paphiopedilum purpuratum by Regina Hughes
Courtesy US National Herbarium, Department of Botany, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

I don’t believe in retirement. I hope to die with a brush in my hand.

— Regina Hughes

No creo en el retiro. Quiero morir con un pincel en la mano.

— Regina Hughes
Cattleya violacea by Margaret Mee
Mee developed her own unique style, combining the scientific accuracy of botanical illustration with the beauty of botanical art.
Cattleya violacea by Margaret Mee
Margaret Mee Estate © RBG Kew

Margaret Mee

Rainforest Conservationist

British botanical artist Margaret Mee (1909–1988) spent more than 30 years studying and painting the tropical plants of the Amazon rainforest, including several species previously unknown to science. A passionate environmentalist, Mee was one of the first people to speak out about the damage caused to the rainforest by illegal mining and logging.

Margaret Mee

Ecologista de la selva tropical

La artista botánica inglesa Margaret Mee (1909–1988) pasó más de 30 años estudiando y pintando plantas en la selva tropical de la Amazonia, incluidas varias especies que la ciencia no conocía. Ambientalista apasionada, Mee fue una de las primeras personas que denunciaron el daño causado al bosque húmedo tropical por la minería y la tala ilegales.

Margaret Mee
Mee made 15 expeditions to the Amazon, often traveling in a dugout canoe.
© Otis Imboden, National Geographic Society