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Work of the Week | 6 February 2023

CAG.3190 Shevaun Doherty, 'Fucus ovalis, Whiddy 1805', Gastroclonium ovatum, 2017, watercolour on calfskin vellum, 45 x 39 cm. Purchased, the Artist, 2022. © the artist.

This WORK OF THE WEEK marks the anniversary of the ‘Botanist of Bantry Bay’!

Ellen Hutchins, who lived at Ballylickey, County Cork, held a great interest in natural history and began to study cryptogams (non-flowering plants) in her early twenties. Incredibly, she collected more than 1,100 plant specimens over the next several years before her untimely death, aged just 29, on 9 February 1815 following a long illness.

'Fucus ovalis, Whiddy 1805', Gastroclonium ovatum (2017) by Shevaun Doherty is based on an original specimen collected by Hutchins at Whiddy Island in 1805.

To honour Ireland’s first female field botanist, the artist was invited to paint one of Hutchins’ specimens in the care of Trinity College Dublin. She subsequently selected this common red seaweed – complete with a tiny Copepod (small crustacean) – and painted it life-size on calfskin vellum to replicate the look of old manuscripts.

Botanical art is painstaking, and the artist followed a process of sketching, tracing, transferral, and painting, using very fine Japanese brushes to balance the application of transparent watercolours – to suggest translucence – with more opaque elements.

Shevaun Doherty (b.1968) is a self-taught watercolourist, botanical illustrator, and art tutor. Inspired by her enthusiasm for the natural world, she ‘loves the quiet meditation that painting brings.’ She is a member of the Society of Botanical Artists.

Coinciding with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (10 February), this WORK OF THE WEEK will also be the 100th edition to feature on radio. as Conor Tallon chats with curator Michael Waldron about a work from the Collection every Sunday morning on The Arts House (Cork’s 96FM / C103 Cork).

This work is featured in BEHIND THE SCENES: Collection at Work until 10 April.

The Arts House: Conor Tallon chats with curator Michael Waldron about a work from the Collection every Sunday morning on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork. You can listen back to this week’s chat here:


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