Botanical artist’s story told

CAROLYN Landon is an extraordinary woman to say the least, certainly one worth writing memoirs about.

Mrs Landon is passionate about recounting stories, having forged a successful career in writing biographies and memoirs of seemingly ordinary Australians who have lived extraordinary lives.

Her latest work, Banksia Lady explores the life and triumph of Celia Rosser, arguably the best botanical artist the world has ever seen.

Mrs Rosser resides in Fish Creek where she owns her own gallery with her son Andrew. Within the gallery hang prints of her paintings from The Banksias and other pieces of her work.

Mrs Rosser spent 25 years meticulously painting every species of banksia with precise form to be compiled in a florilegium in the style of the 18th century.

“To meet her, you wouldn’t know that she’s a famous artist. I haven’t written anything like this before, not about a person like Celia,” Mrs Landon said.

The biography was a mutually desired project, with the pair meeting on several occasions for interviews.

“I recorded all of the conversations and went home to deconstruct what had been said and put everything in order. She had forgotten so much, so I also had to do further research,” Mrs Landon explained.

Mrs Landon is no stranger to biographical writing. Her first published biography in 1999, Jackson’s Track, received fantastic reviews along with its sequel Jackson’s Track: Revisited and her other works Black Swan and Cups with No Handles.

The launch of Banksia Lady was hosted at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne where Mrs Landon spoke to a massive turnout. Over 200 people were turned away with the launch at maximum capacity. Mrs Landon will present another two lectures coinciding with book sales at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne on July 4.

Mrs Landon humbly credits Mrs Rosser’s fame for the turnout.

“Celia is famous around the world for her work,” Mrs Landon said.

Mrs Rosser has certainly achieved fame in her work. With a series of her paintings commissioned into a set of postage stamps in 1990, Mrs Rosser’s work can be admired by every household in the country.

Mrs Rosser’s entire collection of The Banksias is in storage at the Monash University. Mrs Rosser’s 25 year project has certainly paid off.

Like Mrs Landon, Mrs Rosser was humble in the belief that her work was amateur. It wasn’t until her work was exhibited in a gallery alongside other botanical works that she was recognised for her astonishing gifts.

“Bernard Smith, a renowned art historian, walked straight past the headline artists of the exhibition, straight for Celia’s work. He proclaimed that hers was the best botanical work he had seen,” Mrs Landon said.

Hailing from Chicago, USA, Mrs Landon truly appreciates Australia and the ordinary Australian figures with incredible stories.

When asked about her preoccupation for the Australian land, as illustrated in Mrs Rosser’s work, Mrs Landon said, “Australia is so important because we have the most species and variety of plants in the world. We need to preserve that.”

Book signing: Celia Rosser signs Carolyn Landon’s own copy of the florilegium The Banksias Volume 1, a 25 year-long project where Mrs Rosser painted every species of banksia.

Book signing: Celia Rosser signs Carolyn Landon’s own copy of the florilegium The Banksias Volume 1, a 25 year-long project where Mrs Rosser painted every species of banksia.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=15363

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