The myth was that New Zealand had no native flowers. Where that story had come from no one can tell, especially since it is quite obviously not true.
One woman set out to disprove it and she did so with a series of stunningly beautiful botanical prints showcasing New Zealand natives the way no one had before.
Sarah Ann Featon was born on July 14, 1847, in Market Drayton, Shropshire, England, to Henry William Porter and Sarah Hannah Porter. Henry ran a series of pubs (his father had been a wine merchant). There is not much information about her early life.
Sarah Ann Porter arrived in Auckland on January 29, 1870 on the maiden voyage of the sailing ship City of Auckland and married Edward Featon in St Paul's Church, Auckland.
Edward had come to New Zealand with his parents in 1860. He was employed as a navigational instrument maker and optician and joined the Onehunga Naval Volunteers in 1863 and then the Auckland Naval Volunteers.
He later received the New Zealand War Medal
The couple had a daughter, Sarah Ann, who died as an infant and son Edward Victor who was born in 1872.
It’s not known how she became interested in art but during the 1870s and 80s she and husband Edward undertook a series of paintings of native flowers and plants that were gathered into a book featuring 40 of Sarah’s watercolours with words by Edward.
Entitled The Art Album of New Zealand Flora, it was the first full-colour art book published in New Zealand and turned out to be a bestseller.
It also contained mātauranga (Māori knowledge) of the plants.
Her work was so well regarded that a copy was presented to Queen Victoria.
Edward died on June 22, 1909 at their Gisborne home and by 1919 Sarah was in desperate need of money and sold her whole collection to the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa) for £150, where it still is today.
She died aged 79 on April 28, 1927 and is buried in Makaraka Cemetery in Gisborne.
Last year several of her collection were chosen as a new stamp release by New Zealand Post.
The photos are taken from the collection held by Te Papa.
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