Margaret Stones, Revered Botanical Artist, Passes Away at 98

Please join the LSU Press family, the LSU community, and botanical art fans and artists around the globe in mourning the passing of revered botanical artist Margaret Stones.

Watercolor drawing, Margaret Stones

Margaret Stones, one of the most celebrated botanical artists of the twentieth century, passed away on December 26, 2018, in Melbourne, Australia. She was 98 years old. Stones served as the principal illustrator for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, for twenty-five years, completing more than 400 botanical drawings for the magazine between 1958 and 1983. Her second major body of work consisted of 254 watercolor drawings for The Endemic Flora of Tasmania, a stunning six-volume publication completed in 1976.

In 1975, in commemoration of the country’s bicentennial and the fiftieth anniversary of Louisiana State University at its present campus, LSU chancellor Paul W. Murrill commissioned Stones to create a series of drawings of native Louisiana plants. Murrill described Stones’s work as “a modern-day equivalent of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.” The watercolor drawings resulting from that commission were greeted with such enthusiasm that LSU decided to expand the scope of the project. Stones’s illustrations of Louisiana’s native flora eventually totaled 224 exquisite watercolors, completed in 1989 and inspiring the 1991 release by LSU Press of Flora of Louisiana: Watercolor Drawings by Margaret Stones. A traveling exhibition of select drawings was hosted by numerous venues, including the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans; the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England; and the National Gallery of Victoria in Me

Watercolor drawing, Margaret Stones

lbourne, Australia. Apart from their aesthetic value, Stones’s drawings provide an accurate scientific record of the state’s lush, varied flora and constitute a unique resource in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. Housed at Hill Memorial Library, where they are carefully preserved from the effects of light and moisture, the drawings in the Native Flora of Louisiana Collection continue to be treasured by gardeners, art collectors, and botanists in and out of Louisiana.

In 2018, LSU Press published a limited folio edition of the complete collection of Stones’s Louisiana illustrations, titled Native Flora of Louisiana. The exceptional museum-quality reproductions of the artist’s watercolors are paired with detailed scientific descriptions by LSU professor of botany and herbarium director emeritus Lowell E. Urbatsch.

Margaret Stones was a member of the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Australia. She held honorary degrees from the University of Melbourne and Louisiana State University. Her life’s work is the subject of Beauty in Truth: The Botanical Art of Margaret Stones, by Irena Zdanowicz.