The family of famed horticultural artist Auriol Batten, lauded as one of the world’s top five botanical artists and who died a year ago, has donated four of her original works to the Ann Bryant Art Gallery.
The Battens have also bestowed two pieces painted by Auriol’s friend and fellow artist Nils Andersen. The landscapes formed part of her personal collection at her Union Street home where she lived since 1946 and which has now been sold.
Besides the evocative portrait of Andersen, who studied art with Batten in Durban, the family also donated an original botanical drawing, a watercolour of a double-storey house flanked by a jacaranda and a landscape featuring farm outbuildings in a garden setting, all by Auriol Batten.
The paintings are currently displayed in the Ann Bryant’s gracious foyer along with five botanical prints donated by the artist when the gallery held an exhibition of her work in 2011.
“Her sons, Chris and Tom, are the heirs and executors of her estate and when they suggested a donation to the Ann Bryant, the whole family thought it was a brilliant idea,” said the artist’s grandson Nicholas Batten of Port Elizabeth.
“The Ann Bryant has always been a beacon of support for artists and art in East London and I think her work should be in the public eye,” he said.
“My grandmother would have felt absolutely happy about leaving part of her legacy at the gallery.”
Ann Bryant curator Leon du Preez said the donation was “fantastic. The Ann Bryant is also an art museum and Auriol Batten’s son Chris donated these works specifically so that the public could enjoy them.”
Assistant curator Terry Flynn said Batten was a former chairwoman of the East London Fine Arts Society and praised her detailed botanical watercolours for their technical and “delicate” properties.
Batten started the pottery school at the (then) East London Technical College in 1951 and received a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for her illustrations in Flowers of Southern Africa in 1986.
Rhodes University honoured her with a science doctorate in 1994.
She and fellow artist, Herta Bokelmann, set out to paint all the flowers in the Eastern Cape in the 1960s and would traipse into the bush to collect specimens from all over the province.
The respected author, botanist, photographer and artist painted more than 1000 watercolour plates in her lifetime, which illustrated several books, including her best known Wildflowers of the Eastern Cape. Her meticulously accurate and colourful illustrations were characterised by a background of pencil drawings showing the surrounding environment of each flower. Batten died of a heart attack on June 2 last year, aged 97. — firstname.lastname@example.org