Featon’s FlowersNgā puāwai a Featon

A showcase of Sarah Featon’s exquisite 19th century watercolours of New Zealand’s native flowering plants.


He whakakitenga o ngā kōwaiwai waikano ātaahua o te rautau 19 o te puāwaitanga o ngāi tipu o Aotearoa.

When | Āhea

19 Oct 2019 – 10 Feb 2020

Where | Ki hea

Level 5, Toi Art

Cost | Te utu

Free entry


All ages


10 minutes

Accessibility | E wātea ana ki
  • wheelchair accessible

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In 1889, botanical artist Sarah Featon and her surveyor husband, Edward Featon, published The Art Album of New Zealand Flora (Art Album). Forty of Sarah’s exquisite paintings of New Zealand’s native flowering plants were transformed into colour prints to accompany Edward’s lively and occasionally verbose text. Together, they sought to disprove the ‘mistaken notion that New Zealand is particularly destitute of native flowers’.

The book was the first full-colour art book published in New Zealand, and was praised as a ‘colonial work of art’. Firmly grounded in science, it also had popular appeal and shared mātauranga. Today, Sarah’s vibrant watercolours are celebrated as works of art in their own right.

In 1919, widowed and financially distressed, Sarah parted with her life’s work. She sold her collection of 134 watercolours of New Zealand’s flowering plants to the Dominion Museum, Te Papa’s predecessor, for only £150.

Sarah Featon gave these paintings the scientific names of flora used at the time, and in some cases te reo Māori names. Several of these names have changed as knowledge of New Zealand’s flora has evolved. This exhibition uses the current scientific names, and te reo Māori names where available.

Featon’s Flowers, 2019. Photo by Maarten Holl. Te Papa

Featon’s Flowers, 2019. Photo by Maarten Holl. Te Papa

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