Margaret Flockton

Margaret Flockton, Australian botanical artist, 1861-1953

Margaret Flockton was the first botanical illustrator at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Over her 25-year tenure there, she completed more than two thousand scientifically-accurate drawings of Australia’s flora. 

A very private person, this image of the quintessentially Victorian lady is one of the only known photographs of her. She always wore a small magnifying glass (a lupe) at her waist that she used to show her nieces and great nieces around the gardens. She was one of the first eight women in England to learn lithography, a method of printing, and was the first female lithographer in Australia.

An artist by birthright (both parents were artists) in a well-to-do British family, she began pencil drawing at the age of three and continued on to a series of art schools in England, including what is now the prestigious Central St. Martins. Because of her rigorous education, when the family immigrated to Australia in 1888, Flockton was the most well-trained female artist in the country. 

Joining the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, she set about pursuing fine art, and exhibited 39 watercolour paintings in Sydney. Her still-lifes were immediately recognized, and a painting of a Watarah Wildflower was purchased by the New South Wales Art Gallery and another was gifted to Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee. Even though she had a successful career, Flockton lived quietly with her parents for most of it as a spinster, and doted on her nieces and nephews who called her “Aunt Mog.” 

Flockton’s work is preserved in the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens and displayed for special exhibits. An award-winning biography, Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory, was published in 2016. Every year botanical illustrators from The Netherlands to Brazil to Japan enter to win the Margaret Flockton Award, sponsored by the Maple-Brown Family and the Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Garden, which recognizes excellence in scientific botanical illustration.


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