Botanical art of Lady Lefroy is well worth seeing
Lady Charlotte Anna Lefroy Exhibition a review
It seems that both the Lefroys, Governor Sir John as well as Lady Charlotte, were interested in botany. Sir John Henry Lefroy, as Governor of Bermuda, was instrumental in introducing numerous plants to the Island, primarily to test their suitability to Bermuda's soil and climate and even employed gardeners from the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew to oversee his endeavours. He was also a prolific author, which included a book on the botany of Bermuda. Lady Lefroy showed her interest in botany through her painted botanicals.
This year's Heritage Exhibition in the Ace Gallery showcases a selection of Lady Lefroy's botanical paintings which, surprisingly, have never been exhibited before. It is also surprising that although these watercolours are 140 years old they look as fresh today as when they were painted in the 1870s. Given Bermuda's unkind climate, especially when it comes to art, it is notable that there is no evidence of foxing, mildew or even fading.
The 24 watercolours on show were chosen from an album of 83 paintings, which was given to the forerunner of the Bermuda National Trust, the Historic Monuments Trust in 1955 by a Mr & Mrs HC from North Carolina. The paintings are on tinted paper of varying colours and at times the watercolours are heightened with the use of opaque white.
Among the flowers depicted are hibiscus, magnolia, red frangipani, coffee, orchid, rose-scented geranium, red morning glory and Napoleon's Plume. All are very skilfully rendered. Since this is only a small selection of the total number of paintings in the album I am curious as to what the rest of the paintings might look like. It also crossed my mind that if the other paintings are of similar quality this album could be the making of a splendid book.
Charlotte Anna Dundas (Lady Lefroy) came from a military family, her father being Lieutenant Colonial Thomas Dundas. She was born in Scotland in 1824. In 1845 she married Colonel Armine Mountain and in 1848, they were sent to India where Col. Mountain was appointed Adjutant-General to Her Majesty's Forces. They remained there until Col. Mountain's death on February 8 1854. In 1860 she married John Henry Lefroy. In 1871 Lefroy was appointed Governor of Bermuda until 1877. In 1880 — 1881, Sir John was a government administrator in Tasmania and while there, Lady Lefroy continued to paint flowers. She died in 1903.
As for Lady Lefroy's training as an artist; much is unknown but most probably, as a person of some privilege, she would have received a basic education in those aspects thought suitable for young ladies, which most likely included studies in literature, art and music. Most women of her day did not attend institutions of higher learning.
The Ace Gallery is a small, purpose-built exhibition space in the Ace Building and we from the Bermuda art community are fortunate to have such a fine facility, especially given the dearth of exhibition spaces in Bermuda. Whenever I do visit the Ace Gallery, however, I am usually the only one there and I can only speculate as to why so few seem to seek it out. From what I am told, groups, especially from the Princess Hotel, do occasionally arrange a visit. I have also noticed that the Ace exhibition openings are well attended. If you have not yet visited this Galler, and especially the Lady Charlotte Lefroy exhibition, I recommend that you do so. It is a quiet, meditative show, but if you are seeking such an experience, this show is for you.
The Ace Gallery is located in the Ace Building at 17 Woodbourne Avenue in Hamilton and is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11am to 2pm or by arrangement, call 295-6200. The current exhibition continues through August 1, 2013.