When Ellis Rowan died in 1922 few people have not heard of her. She was one of Australia's most prolific artists producing more than 3000 words in her lifetime. While 970 of Rowan's paintings lie hidden between layers of tissue paper in drawers at the National Library of Australia, others are scattered around the world, housed in private collections. Queen Victoria herself was the proud owner of three of Rowan's works in 1985.
But now, more than 80 years after her death, Ellis Rowan is largely unknown, her legacy all but forgotten.
From her early watercolours depicting delicate Australian wildflowers to her bold and dramatic off-the-page oil paintings portraying the flora and fauna of New Guinea, Rowan was as well known for her undying pursuit of rare and undiscovered flowers as she was for her unique artists style that represented both beauty and botanical accuracy.
Travelling to dangerous and inaccessible places, Rowan could be found in her Victorian attire, corset under a high-neck laced blouse, ankle length skirt and high buttoned boots, navigating her way through murky swamps and snake-infested jungles, all in search of something new and unknown. While most female artists were painting still-lifes in their studios, Rowan bucked society's perceptions of the role of woman at the time, going on to become on of Australia's most commercially viable artists, often outselling her male artist counterparts.
Simon and Schuster
Author: Christine and Michael Morton-Evans
ISBN: 9780731812851 Buy it now at