A collection of works by perhaps the ‘greatest botanical artist and illustrator of his generation’, Raymond Booth (1929-2015), will go under the hammer in North Yorkshire’s Tennants Auctioneers on October 7.
The auction house said that Booth’s passion for the natural world shines through in his highly detailed oil studies of flora and fauna.
The Raymond Booth Studio Sale will comprise circa 90 lots of his exquisite botanical paintings and intense yet intimate landscapes depicting the woods and fields around his home in Leeds.
Booth was a young child when his family moved from the urban streets of central Leeds to the leafy suburb of Roundhay in the north of the city, close to Roundhay Park – the second largest urban park in Europe. His father, a keen rambler, instilled a lifelong love and respect of the British countryside in Booth, and set him on a path to which he would dedicate his life.
Accepted into Leeds College of Art in 1946, Booth put his studies on hold for two years whilst completed his National Service with the RAF in Egypt. Despite being criticised by his tutors for rejecting the modernist principles they were teaching, Booth stuck to his guns and worked in the traditional and precise manner to which he felt an affinity. After graduating in 1953, he was struck down by tuberculosis, which he had contracted in Egypt; however, the long months of recovery afforded him the opportunity to hone his skills as a botanical artist.
His career began in earnest when he submitted work to a Royal Horticultural Society exhibition in London, and he attracted the attention of the likes of Sir George Taylor, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Dr Harold Fletcher, Director of RHS Wisley. After being commissioned to illustrate a 2-volume book on Camellias, he went on to exhibit at the Walker Galleries until they closed in 1961. His was picked up shortly afterwards by the Fine Art Society, where he would exhibit for over fifty years.
A retrospective of his work was held in 2002 at Leeds Art Gallery, followed by another held by the Fine Art Society in 2011 to celebrate fifty years of exhibiting with the gallery, which subsequently toured numerous galleries in Yorkshire. An intensely private man who rarely left his home in Alwoodley, Leeds, Booth only attended one of his private views, and only once visited the Fine Art Society.
Booth spent his life tucked away in his home, exploring the woods and fields around Alwoodley and growing numerous specimens in his garden. He rarely painted anything that he had not observed through at least one growing cycle. Indeed, in executing his most ambitious commission to paint 85 illustrations of Japanese flowers for ‘Japonica Magnifica’ with plant hunter Don Elick, he was sent specimen plants by Elick from Japan which he planted and grew in his garden. The project spanned twelve years.
Amongst the paintings on offer in the sale are examples of his botanical illustrations, such as A Branch of Apples, estimated at £1,200-£1,800; Orchids and Roots, estimated£1,200-£1,800, and The Slipper Orchids, estimated at £800-£1,200).
Alongside the illustrations are lush, intimate depictions of Adel Woods and the creatures that inhabit them, such as Adel Crags, a Brilliant September Morning”, estimate of £700-£1,000, and beautifully observed still lives such as From the Vegetable Garden, with its estimate of £1,500-£2,500.
The sale will also offer early drawings and animal studies, with highlights including Study of a Hare, estimated at £300-£500.