Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Rosa Fiveash was born in Adelaide and became a noted painter of Australian wildflowers. She studied at the Adelaide Art School under Louis Tannert and H. P. Gill but taught herself the art of botanical illustration.
Apart from a trip to England in 1901, Fiveash lived her entire life with her unmarried sister in their family home in North Adelaide. Remaining unmarried herself, she dedicated her life to illustrating the the flora of South Australia.
Fiveash was commissioned by the government conservator of forests to illustrate Forest Flora of South Australia which commenced publication in 1882. Published in nine parts with five prints per issue, once each painting was complete, the works were expertly prepared for the lithography by the South Australian Government lithographer, Harcourt Barrett. Over time it became apparent that Fiveash was receiving an unfair share of the credit compared to Barrett, prompting the lithographer to write to The Advertiser, setting the record straight:
'Of [the] 45 plates Miss Fiveash only supplied 32 drawings in watercolour of the centre or main branch only. Miss Camilla Hammond and Mrs. Smart sketched the native cherry, and it was from these sketches that the drawings upon stone were made. The remaining eleven plates and title page, together with all the additional work, consisting of the various woods, barks, seed-vessels, botanical sections, and various details of the flowers, were drawn direct upon the stones from photos and natural specimens wholly and solely by me during the time I held the position of chief lithographer at the Government Printing office.' "
Apart from these lithographs, Fiveash's best known paintings were done in collaboration with Professor R. S. Rogers and were published in 1911 in South Australian Orchids.
Rosa Fiveash also painted illuminated addresses and is credited with introducing china painting to Adelaide. On a trip to England, she was astonished to see some of the designs that passed muster as Australian flowers, being manufactured by some of England's best known china firms.
There are over 200 works by Rosa Fiveash in the South Australian Museum. She lived for 75 years in her family home in North Adelaide where she looked out of her studio onto a garden filled with her favourite subject, Australian wildflowers.
Examples of artwork:
Source: Extracted from: Jennifer Phipps (1986) Artists' Gardens
- Flowers and Gardens in Australian Art 1780s-1980s, Bay Books, Sydney.
[consult for source references]
Aitken, Richard; Collett, Julie; Darragh, Thomas A.; Jones-O'Neill; Morrison, Gordon (2012) 'Capturing Flora - 300 years of Australian Botanical art', Art Gallery of Ballarat. [consult for source references]
Portrait Photo: National Library of Australia, vn2591715