This title is available in bookstores now. A good present for the gardener in your life?
There needs to be more people like Audrey Eagle. Audrey trained as a draughtsperson and then applied her professional skills to something she was really passionate about. The work that came out of is beautiful and important, significantly contributing to the understanding of New Zealand’s incredible plant life. People who use their professional skills to do great stuff for causes they are passionate about are awesome. And Te Papa Press has been hard at work to let us all know just how awesome Audrey is.
In 2006, a two-volume collection of all of Audrey Eagle’s work was published and won the Montana Book Award for Non-fiction. This has now been followed up by an elegant, slimmed down version The Essential Audrey Eagle. A very manageable size for picking up and admiring, this one is refreshingly light and affordable. Thankfully not another book for my overly subscribed coffee table.
Botanical illustration is alive and flourishing despite a world full of gadgetry. We expect photography would have rendered the process irrelevant but these carefully drawn works are as important and sought after as ever. Why? Firstly, they are an important resource for identifying plants as they contain a vast amount of detail and information. Characteristics of a plant that may be really difficult to photograph can be pulled out and shown in incredible detail and the different developmental stages shown next to each other. Secondly, these kinds of images can be breathtakingly beautiful and are still popular as works of art.
So of course, this book is gorgeous. Audrey Eagle is a master of translating the great natural beauty of plants to the page. The Essential Audrey Eagle shows off 163 illustrations selected from 60 years of work. It has covered the hit list of NZ plants, the household names — kowhai, pohutukawa, rata, manuka, cabbage trees, flaxes. But it also pays tribute to the huge variety by showing a representation of each woody species. This makes the book an excellent primer.
Out in nature, overwhelmed by the whole, it can be difficult to get up close and see the finer points. This book provides the opportunity to drink in the details. I have grown NZ spinach for years but plate 26 made me aware of detailing of the tiny flowers that I had simply overlooked. I’ve spent a lot of time admiring and learning from the side by side comparisons of manuka and kanuka, or the Metrosideros pohutukawa and ratas or the miro and totara. And I’ve been completely won over by the beautiful arrangement of three very different Clematis (plates 13-15) and the detailed leaves of the hutu (plate 18).
Fine craftsmanship is a wonderful thing to behold, and this book displays a true artist’s love and dedication to NZ plants and their conservation. The Essential Audrey Eagle is a book you’ll learn so much from by simply looking at the pretty pictures.
Reviewed by Anna Butterfield
The Essential Audrey Eagle
by Audrey Eagle
Published by Te Papa Press