Two Hundred Wildflowers: Annora Brown’s Botanical Watercolours, Scientific Illustration, and Conservationism in Alberta
Between 1958 and 1960, artist Annora Brown conceived and compiled over two hundred botanical watercolours for the Glenbow Museum. Brown created a body of work that was documentary in nature but also imbued with personal meaning and aesthetic appeal. Her distinctive approach to botanical illustration challenges how scientific information is categorized and communicated in Western culture, and reflects shifting perceptions of the Alberta environment in the twentieth century. The commission was inspired by the publication of Old Man’s Garden (1954), a book written by Brown to fill a gap in the understanding of plants indigenous to the prairie and foothill regions. The book was exceptional in its incorporation of the practical knowledge and lore of southern Alberta First Nation’s communities (specifically Treaty Seven Nations the Piikani and Kainai) with the accounts of early European explorers, Western folklore, literature, and scientific information. This thesis connects Brown’s approach to communicating botanical information in Old Man’s Garden with the artwork she produced for the commission, and analyzes how both projects subvert traditional models of scientific text and illustration. I contextualize Brown’s work within larger frameworks of botanical study in Canada and the early conservation movement in Alberta, and reflect upon how the commission speaks to the connection between landscape and identity.