A Botanical Life
Robert David Fitzgerald
written by Penny Olsen
National Gallery of Australia | ISBN 9780642277718
Paperback – 160 pages
Member’s price: $31.50
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Robert David Fitzgerald (1830–1892) was a successful colonial surveyor who had arrived in Australia in 1856 as a young Irish immigrant of 25. He was employed by the Lands Department in New South Wales and, although he was an exemplary public servant, he was also one of the last of the Victorian-era gentlemen scientists: an avid naturalist, ornithologist and skilled taxidermist. In 1864, while searching for birds to add to his collection, he was inspired by the discovery of a clump of Rock Lilies (Dendrobium speciosum) to collect a number of other orchid specimens in the area. Over the following years, Fitzgerald devoted his leisure time to botanical illustration and documented the orchids of Australia, publishing his discoveries in his internationally acclaimed work, Australian Orchids. In so doing, he corresponded and engaged with some of the great thinkers of his time, including Ferdinand von Mueller, George Bentham and Charles Darwin. A Botanical Life presents a short biography, followed by a portfolio section of more than 100 stunning full-colour images of flowers painted by Robert David Fitzgerald.