Anne Ophelia Todd Dowden: A Blossom on the Bough
19 September 2002 – 28 February 2003
The exhibition, celebrating the artist's 95th birthday, presented an overview of Dowden's career as it progressed from textiles to botanical art and illustration, and it included finished watercolors, layouts, and research paintings, along with books and magazines in which her paintings have been reproduced. Upon graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, she continued to study at the Arts Students League and Beaux Arts Institute of Design where she and four other students were successful at designing wallpapers and drapery fabrics. After teaching at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she developed the Art Department at Manhattanville College and began preparing paintings of edible wild plants for publication. With the publication of these artworks in Life magazine, Dowden's career developed toward botanical illustration. She completed illustration projects for House Beautiful and Natural History and then began writing, designing and illustrating her own books. Flower pollination fascinated the artist, and several of her books dealt with this subject—Look at a Flower (1963), The Secret Life of the Flowers (1964), From Flower to Fruit (1984) and The Clover and the Bee (1990). Other themes in her books, published from the early 1960s until 1994, included roses, city weeds, flowers of trees, state flowers, Shakespeare's flowers, plants of the Bible and of Christmas and poisonous plants. A full-color, illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition.
This exhibition was the culmination of the Institute's long relationship with the artist, who had been an acquaintance of Rachel Hunt. Dowden's work was included in our 1st 2nd, 3rd and 4th Internationals and featured in a one-person show in 1965, Botanical Illustrations by Anne Ophelia Todd Dowden. The Institute is also the repository of the most extensive collection of Dowden original watercolors and ink drawings (479), research drawings, publication layouts and correspondence through a gift from the artist.