Mariella Baldwin

Plants that have inspired Fairy Tales
1st – 7th April 2019

‘Rose Crimson Bengal’
© Mariella Baldwin

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Stories; fairy tales, folklore and legends have been passed down through the generations and across continents for time immemorial. Once upon a time the heritage of these stories was in the oral tradition, at a time when possibly the nights seemed longer and darker, the journeys slower and longer, and the idea of magic abounded.

With the advent of the Gutenberg Printing Press, during the 15th century, stories became committed to print. In the 18th century as the Age of Enlightenment progressed, spreading out from Central Europe across the globe, greater attention was given to the printed word and images. Natural Philosophy developed as a discipline with people finding greater leisure time with which to consider, document and examine the natural world. During this time writers were becoming aware of the need to preserve the tales from the oral tradition for posterity. At the same time philosophers, artists and scientists were beginning to explore the science and art of colour. Botanists, gardeners and horticulturalists were becoming aware of plants from other continents and seeking the novel and the new. Once about discovery; now about conservation.

Wars, persecution, and famines have always lead to the movement of populations and with them their stories. Seeds harvested and stored travelled with people making new homes in new provinces, countries and continents. Equally adventurers travelled the silk road and the oceans exchanging crops seeds and stories, amongst other treasures, along the way. Plants equally have their mechanisms for transporting themselves across lands and waters in their quest for survival.

This exhibition, by botanical artist Mariella Baldwin, brings together the fairy tale and the plant that inspired the story; delving into the history of the origin of the genus and how it came to influence and shape the tale. Inspiration for the paintings has come from historical herbals which brought plant knowledge to a wider audience during the 16th century. The traditional style of the paintings has been deliberately chosen as an illustrative story of the plant to compliment the fairy tale. Each spring as plants begin to wake up from their dormancy a magical miracle occurs. The life bursting from Pumpkin is magic. The shoot rapidly grows and grows . . . and grows, to the glory of the harvest of a lustrous autumnal globe which can be stored and used over the winter months – but of equal wonder – the dust- like, microscopic seed of Rampion blossoming into a delicate, dancing ….. of bells. Often these plants which sustain us, and the insect world which we depend upon, can be overlooked by the glitz and glamour of our modern lives. Join us at the new Green and Stone Gallery getting down to earth . . .

And above all , watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ Roald Dahl.