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Walter Hood Fitch


Walter Hood Fitch
(1817-1892)

Walter Hood Fitch was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on February 28, 1817 and died at Kew, England, on January 14, 1892. Fitch was working in a textile mill in Glasgow when the editor of Curtis' Botanical Magazine, Sir W.J. Hooker, director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, discovered him. For nearly forty years he produced botanical drawings for the Botanical Magazine. He was a dedicated and prolific artist, and one of the most important botanical illustrators of his time. He produced over 10,000 published illustrations for various botanical periodicals - 2700 plates for Curtis' Botanical Magazine -- and over 35 books. Fitch is especially celebrated as a 19th century botanical artist who focused on capturing the beauty and complexity of orchids. His attention to detail led Sir Hooker to describe Fitch's talent as "unrivaled skill in seizing the natural character of a plant." Because of the popularity of his orchid drawings, Fitch was responsible for a flurry of "orchidmania" in Victorian England: horticultural publications abounded, trade in botanical plants was brisk, and the building of greenhouses proliferated. Although some of the orchids he drew are now rare and, indeed, some are extinct, his strikingly beautiful illustrations remain.