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Lilian Snelling (1879–1972) was "probably the most important British botanical artist of the first half of the 20th century".[4] She was the principal artist and lithographer to Curtis's Botanical Magazine between 1921 and 1952[5] and "was considered one of the greatest botanical artists of her time" – "her paintings were both detailed and accurate and immensely beautiful".[6] She was appointed MBE in 1954[7] and was awarded the Victoria Medal in 1955.[4]

Lilian Snelling
Rhododendron dauricum var. sempervirens.jpg
Rhododendron dauricum var. sempervirens
(Accepted name: Rhododendron ledebourii)[1]
Illustration by Lilian Snelling 1918.[2][3]
Born(1879-06-08)8 June 1879
Died12 October 1972(1972-10-12) (aged 93)
OccupationBotanical artist



Lilian Snelling was born on 8 June 1879 at Spring Hall, St Mary Cray, Kent into the large family of John Carnell Snelling (1841–1902), brewer, and his wife, Margaret Elizabeth, née Colgalt. She and her sisters were boarders at a school in Tunbridge Wells.[8] In 1915–16 Henry John Elwes commissioned her to paint flowers (which he had gathered on his travels), at his home Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire.[8]

Snelling worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 1916 to 1921 painting plant portraits for Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour, Keeper of the Botanic Garden and Professor of Botany at the University of Edinburgh. She studied lithography under Frank Morley Fletcher.

She left in 1921 to work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as principal artist and lithographer to Curtis's Botanical Magazine which had recently been bought by the RHS where from 1929 she was assisted by Stella Ross-Craig. After 30 years she retired in 1952 having produced over 830 paintings and plates. Volume 169 of Curtis's was dedicated to her: "artist, lithographer and botanical illustrator who with remarkable delicacy of accurate outlines, brilliancy of colour and intricate gradation of tone, has faithfully portrayed most of the plants figured in this magazine from 1922 to 1952."[5]

Her paintings illustrated the supplement to Grove's supplement to Henry John Elwes's Monograph of the Genus Lilium (1934), Stern's, Study of the genus Paeonia (1946) and Fred Stoker's A Book of Lilies (1943.)

In 1954 she was appointed MBE in the Birthday Honours List.[7] In 1955 she was awarded the Victoria Medal, the RHS's highest honour.[4]

In 1959 her work was featured in the Kew Gardens's bicentennial exhibition: "Kew's Aid to Botany over 200 Years" where she was described as "one of a remarkable group of women" who included Stella Ross-Craig, Ann V. Webster and Margaret Stones.[9] She died at her home, 208 High Street, St Mary Cray, Kent, on 12 October 1972.[8]

In 2007 the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh held a ten-week-long exhibition dedicated to her work.[10]


  • Millais, John Guille (1924). Rhododendrons and the various hybrids Second series. London, New York: Longmans, Green and Co. OCLC 3663850
  • Grove, Arthur (1933). A supplement to Elwes' Monograph of the genus Lilium. London: Royal Horticultural Society. OCLC 14200835
  • Stoker, Fred (1943). A Book of Lilies. London & New York: King Penguin Books. OCLC 4017629
  • Stern, F.C., Snelling, Lilian, & Stella Ross-Craig (1946). Study of the genus Paeonia. London: Royal Horticultural Society.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)OCLC 5163877
  • "Curtis's Botanical Magazine". s 147–169. Royal Horticultural Society. 1922–1952.


  1. ^ The Royal Horticultural Society Horticultural Database, available at
  2. ^ Plate 8930"Rhododendron dauricum var. sempervirens". Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 147. 1938.
  3. ^ Rh.sempervirens Snelling, Lilian (1879–1972) (Artist) Watercolour, ink and pencil on paper. Initialled and dated "L.S. pinxt Spring 1918" (lower right). RHS Lindley Library Online Catalogue
  4. ^ a b c Elliott, Brent (June 2003). "Illustrating the Garden of England". The Garden. Archived from the original on 15 March 2005. retrieved 13 March 2014
  5. ^ a b "Miss Lilian Snelling" The Times (London, England), Tuesday, 17 October 1972; pg. 16; Issue 58607.Category: Obituaries
  6. ^ Haines, Catherine with Helen M. (2001). International women in science : a biographical dictionary to 1950. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-CLIO. p. 290. ISBN 9781576070901.
  7. ^ a b The London Gazette, 1 June 1954, Issue number 40188, Page 3276
  8. ^ a b c Erikson, Annika Liv (2009). Snelling, Lilian (1879–1972) Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/96834.
  9. ^ "Kew's Aid To Botany Over 200 Years" The Times (London, England), Monday, 1 June 1959; pg. 6; Issue 54475. Category: Reviews
  10. ^ "Lilian Snelling". Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 2007. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012.
  11. ^ IPNI.  Snelling.

Further readingEdit

  • Blunt, Wilfrid; William Thomas Stearn (1950). The art of botanical illustration: an illustrated history. Courier Dover Publications.OCLC 1497658
  • Burbridge, Robert Brindsley (1974). Dictionary of British flower, fruit, and still life painters. Leigh-on-Sea: F. Lewis. ISBN 9780853170242.
  • Blunt,Wilfrid (1978). In for a Penny: A Prospect of Kew Gardens: Their Flora, Fauna and Falballas. H. Hamilton. ISBN 9780241898239.
  • Hadfield, Miles Harling, Robert & Leonie Highton (1980). British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary. Zwemmer Books. ISBN 9780302005415.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Petteys, Chris , with the assistance of Hazel Gustow, Ferris Olin, Verna (1985). Dictionary of women artists : an international dictionary of women artists born before 1900 (5. print. ed.). Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall. ISBN 9780816184569.
  • King, Bente, Chiment, John J. (1988). The Botanical Art of Lilian Snelling. 44–47. The Cornell Plantations Cornell University.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Stearn,William Thomas, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1990). Flower artists of Kew: botanical paintings by contemporary artists. Herbert Press. ISBN 9781871569162.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Elliott, Brent (1994). Treasures of the Royal Horticultural Society. Herbert Press. ISBN 9781871569681.
  • Ogilvie, Marion Bailey, ed. (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. Taylor and Francis. p. 1209. ISBN 9780415920384.
  • Horwood, Catherine (2010). Gardening Women: Their Stories From 1600 to the Present. Hachette UK. ISBN 9780748118335.

External linksEdit