Walter Hood Fitch
was a botanical illustrator
A botanical illustrator is a person who paints, sketches or otherwise illustrates botanical subjects such as trees and flowers. The job requires great artistic skill, attention to fine detail, and technical botanical knowledge...
, born in Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...
, who executed some 10,000 drawings for various publications. His work in colour lithograph, including 2700 illustrations for Curtis's Botanical Magazine
The Botanical Magazine; or Flower-Garden Displayed, is an illustrated publication which began in 1787. The longest running botanical magazine, it is widely referred to by the subsequent name Curtis's Botanical Magazine....
, produced up to 200 plates per year.
Fitch was involved in fabric printing from the age of 17 and took to botanical art after meeting William Jackson Hooker
Sir William Jackson Hooker, FRS was an English systematic botanist and organiser. He held the post of Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow University, and was the first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He enjoyed the friendship and support of Sir Joseph Banks for his exploring,...
, Regius Professor
Regius Professorships are "royal" professorships at the ancient universities of the United Kingdom and Ireland - namely Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dublin. Each of the chairs was created by a monarch, and each appointment, save those at Dublin, is approved by the...
of Botany, a competent botanical illustrator, and the editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine. Fitch's first lithograph of Mimulus roseus
, appeared in the Botanical Magazine in 1834, and he soon became its sole artist. In 1841 W.J. Hooker became director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, is 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, England. "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" and the brand name "Kew" are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs...
and Fitch moved to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
. After 1841 Fitch was the sole artist for all official and unofficial publications issued by Kew; his work was paid for by Hooker personally. It was not unusual for him to work on several different publications simultaneously; he could draw directly onto the lithographic stone
Lithography is a method for printing using a stone or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface...
to save time. These chromolithographs were based on botanical illustrations provided by Hooker and others, and produced some of his most spectacular results.
Fitch's important works are his illustrations for William Hooker's A century of orchidaceous plants
(1851), and for James Bateman
James Bateman was a landowner and accomplished horticulturist. He developed Biddulph Grange after moving there around 1840, from nearby Knypersley Hall...
's A Monograph of Odontoglossum
(1864–74). He also created around 500 plates for Hooker's Icones Plantarum
(1836–76) and four lithographic plates for the monograph Victoria Regia
. The latter work received critical acclaim in the Athenaeum
The Athenaeum was a literary magazine published in London from 1828 to 1921. It had a reputation for publishing the very best writers of the age....
, "they are accurate, and they are beautiful".
Other works were with George Bentham
George Bentham CMG FRS was an English botanist, characterized by Duane Isely as "the premier systematic botanist of the nineteenth century".- Formative years :...
and for J.D. Hooker's Handbook of the British Flora
(1858 and many editions).
When Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker OM, GCSI, CB, MD, FRS was one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century. Hooker was a founder of geographical botany, and Charles Darwin's closest friend...
returned from his travels in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...
, Fitch prepared lithographs from Hooker's sketches for his Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya
(1849–51) and, from the drawings of Indian artists, for his Illustrations of Himalayan Plants
(1855). He also produced the illustrations presented in the younger Hooker's The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage
and Flora Tasmaniae
A dispute over pay with J. D. Hooker ended Fitch's service to both the Botanical Magazine
and Kew in 1877. He was much sought after and remained active as a botanical artist until 1888. Works during this period included Henry John Elwes
Henry John Elwes, FRS was a British botanist, entomologist, author, lepidopterist, naturalist, collector and traveller who became renowned for collecting specimens of lilies during trips to the Himalayas and Korea. He was the first person to receive the Victoria Medal of the Royal Horticultural...
's Monograph of the Genus Lilium
His renown as a botanical illustrator was such that his obituary in Nature
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...
stated "... his reputation was so high and so world-wide that it is unnecessary to say much on this point.".
The standard author abbreviation Fitch
is used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical name. His nephew, John Nugent Fitch
John Nugent Fitch , botanical illustrator and lithographer, best known for his contribution of 528 plates to The Orchid Album, a landmark work of eleven volumes published between 1872 and 1897. Fitch was the nephew of botanical artist Walter Hood Fitch .St Georg I. 1989 Botanical artists of New...
(1840–1927), also produced illustrations for Curtis's Botanical Magazine.
- Walter Hood Fitch - A Celebration Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, HMSO, London.