Images of Agnes Chamberlin’s Flower Prints now on Flickr

Agnes Chamberlin (née Dunbar Moodie and previously Fitzgibbon) came from a literary family. Her mother, Susanna Moodie, and her aunt, Catharine Parr Traill, were well known for their now classic descriptions of pioneer life in Ontario, Roughing it in the Bush (by Moodie) and The Backwoods of Canada (by Parr Traill).

Two white lilies, one open, one closed, and two yellow lilies lying on a bed of green leaves.

Canadian Wild Flowers, Plate VIII (e011308817)

Chamberlin was taught to paint by her mother and, following in her family’s footsteps, applied this skill to literature. Beginning in 1863, she started producing illustrations for her aunt’s proposed book on Canadian flowers.

Canadian Wild Flowers, Plate VII (e008300821)

When Chamberlin’s first husband died, she turned this work into a way to support her family. Collaborating with her aunt, Chamberlin produced Canadian Wildflowers, an illustrated botanical book combining Parr Traill’s text with Chamberlin’s hand-coloured lithographs.

Two white lady’s slippers standing upright among large green leaves, an orange lily, a lily bud, and small blue harebells.

Canadian Wild Flowers, Plate V (e011183290)

The book was a success and praised for the accuracy of its illustrations. Four editions were published between 1868 and 1895, each with Chamberlin’s hand-coloured plates. It was one of the first large illustrated books to be printed and published completely in Canada. Following this book, Chamberlin also contributed to Parr Traill’s Studies of Plant Life and exhibited her work in Philadelphia in the United States, as well as in England and Canada.

A red trillium standing upright among large green leaves, round purple flowers, and pale purple flowers.

Canadian Wild Flowers, Plate IV (e011308814)

Following this book, Chamberlin also contributed to Parr Traill’s Studies of Plant Life and exhibited her work in Philadelphia in the United States, as well as in England and Canada.

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