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Rory McEwen : The Colours of Reality. Revised edition 2015

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This book describes the life and work of Rory McEwen, a legend in his lifetime and still admired thirty years after his untimely death.

Editor: Martyn Rix. Hardback 240pp. 280 x 242mm. 200+ colour botanical paintings and b&w illustrations. ISBN 978 1 84246 591 2, Kew Publishing 2015.

This book describes the life and work of Rory McEwen, a legend in his lifetime and still admired thirty years after his untimely death. A pivotal figure in the British Folk music movement, he was one of the first from Britain to search out the roots of American Blues, which he presented on his own television music show in a format that was decades ahead of its time. A master of 12-string guitar in the style of Leadbelly, he also exhibited avant-garde sculpture at the Edinburgh Festival.

McEwen’s greatest legacy, however, lies in the wonderful, luminous flower paintings produced throughout his life, of anemones, auriculas, tulips, fritillaries and roses, alongside vegetables and dying leaves. Combining a deep understanding of the great tradition of flower painting with a sensitivity to the currents of his own time, these works live on today, providing inspiration to new generations of botanical artists.

The revised edition of this bestselling book features additional botanical and modern art images by McEwen as well as an introduction by musician Jools Holland. James Fox describes McEwen’s life and music and the wide-ranging friendships that he and his wife Romana shared at their house in Chelsea. Richard Demarco remembers his contributions to the avant-garde in Scotland, and Martyn Rix focuses on the botanical aspects of the work. Shirley Sherwood considers his legacy and influence on today’s botanical artists, as illustrated by works from her collection.


Martyn Rix is a botanist and the editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine published by Kew, the longest continuously running botanical periodical in the world founded in 1787, which places special emphasis on botanical illustration. With a PhD in Botany from the University of Cambridge, he has worked at the University Botanic Garden in Zurich and at the RHS Garden, Wisley and has made many expeditions to different parts of the world to collect new plants for gardens. He is the author or co-author of a number of books, including the highly acclaimed The Golden Age of Botanical Art.

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