Flora Britannica

9 Oct 2015 – 23 Oct 2015

Event times


Cost of entry


Tate Britain

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 88,77A,C10
  • Pimlico
  • Vauxhall

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Artist and botanical illustrator Louise O’Reilly will lead you on a floral safari of the galleries and print collection as you investigate the symbolism and representation of flowers in the collection through the process of drawing.


Explore, experiment and take inspiration from the variety of flora found at Tate Britain on this short course. Artist and botanical illustrator Louise O’Reilly will lead you on a floral safari of the galleries and print collection as you investigate the symbolism and representation of flowers in the collection through the process of drawing. Over three weeks you will be introduced to and learn the key skills of botanical drawing by making sketches in the galleries and creating studies from life in the studio. You will be guided to produce work inspired by artists and flora in the collection and to experiment and play with a variety of styles and materials to create your own small series of flora and botanical inspired art works

Each session will incorporate drawing exercises, independent research and sketching in the gallery, individual work in the studio and group discussion. You will develop your skills of working with line, form and colour using pencil and pastels (in session 1) and collage and cut-outs (in session 2), and will work with your choice of materials in the final session. On the final day of the course a small exhibition of your work in the studio takes place to which you can invite family and friends.

No technical knowledge required, all levels of ability welcome. Materials and light refreshments will be provided.

Week 1

Colour and Collage

Drawing inspiration from the collection we will look at representation of flowers as the subject in the 20th century with reference to works in the galleries by Stanley Spencer, Ivon Hitchens and Patrick Heron. A selection of works will also be privately viewed from the Print Collection by artists including Henri Matisse, David Hockney, Mary Fedden, John Nash and Michael Landy. Students will make sketches of the new approaches to representing the experience of nature by artists after the world wars and further develop these techniques in the studio. 

Week 2

Symbols and Sketches

Based throughout the galleries of Tate Britain you will begin look at the symbolic use of flowers from 1500 to 1900, considering Tudor roses as symbols of nationhood and a virgin queen, 18th century roses and lilies as signifiers of religious virtue, social status and sexuality, and the depiction of wild flowers by the Pre-Raphaelites to evoke direct engagement with nature. In this session you will draw and sketch in the galleries from works by artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and John Singer Sargent and develop their own work using these techniques in the studio.

Week 3

Observation and Mixed Media

You will use the practical and theoretical learning from the previous sessions to create your own floral study with the style, concept and materials of your choice. A variety of flower subjects will be provided for each session and students are welcome to bring their own material for this final session. 


Louise O’Reilly is an artist, illustrator and teacher. Her creative practice includes drawing, painting, artist’s books, prints and surface design. She studied History of Art at Winchester School of Art and Birkbeck College before training in illustration at Oxford and Cherwell College and the Society of Botanical Artists. 

Her recent projects and commissions include The Gardens at Ham House 2012, an artist’s book commissioned by the National Trust about the 17th century garden at Ham; Borde Hill Plant Histories 2013, small picture books describing rare trees in Borde Hill Garden; Mappa Mottisfont 2014, a contemporary mappa mundi depicting Mottisfont Abbey and estates in the 1340s; and Fountains Florilegia 2015, a large-scale design for architectural glass in a primary health care building.

She teaches Botanical Illustration at Capel Manor College and regularly leads workshops for adults and children in museums and community gardens and for the National Trust. In 2014 she was accepted as a painting member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society. She is based in a studio in east London.

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