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Distributed for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Rory McEwen: The Colours of Reality


With a Foreword by Jools Holland

Rory McEwen strummed his way onto the Ed Sullivan show, sat in on a sitar session with George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, and was a leader in the post-war folksong revival. Yet arguably his greatest legacy was not in the field of music—a talented, precise artist, McEwen revolutionized the field of botanical art.

McEwen developed a distinctive style working on unadorned vellum, presenting botanical subject matter with scientific precision and artistic flair, without ever compromising one for the other. At a time when such paintings focused on perfect specimens, McEwen found beauty in imperfections, which made his creations breathtakingly realistic. His paintings have been an inspiration to later generations of botanical artists and his work can be found in collections around the world, including the MoMA, the Tate, the British Museum, and the National Gallery of Modern Art Scotland.

This revised edition of the best-selling Rory McEwen: The Colours of Reality adds more artwork from McEwen and a soulful foreword by musician Jools Holland. Four sections consider McEwen from four different angles: his life and music, his contributions to the avant-garde, his work as a botanical painter, and his influence and legacy.  

Originally published to coincide with an exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 2013, and developed in close collaboration with the McEwen family, this is the first major gathering of McEwen’s work since 1989.

240 pages | 185 color plates, 15 halftones | 9 1/2 x 11 | © 2015

Art: Art--General Studies

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“[A] beautifully printed overview of McEwen’s life and work. . . . Thumb through the volume and prepare to be engaged by the range of subject and impressed by the treatment that appears under one’s fingers.”

Journal of Natural Science Illustration

Table of Contents

Grey Gowrie

Jools Holland

1. Rory McEwen—His Life and Music
James Fox

2. Rory McEwen and the Avant-Garde in Europe
Richard DeMarco

3. Rory McEwen as a Botanical Painter
Martyn Rix

4. Rory McEwen’s Legacy and Lasting Influence
Shirley Sherwood

Notes on the McEwen Paintings
List of Exhibitions
Bibliography and Acknowledgements

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