Happy birthday Emily Harris!

By Michele Leggott

Michele with her Turnbull Library prints of Emily’s paintings

Thanks to the person who put three framed Emily Harris prints on TradeMe recently, we now have a set of Emily’s beautiful botanical paintings issued by the Turnbull Library in 1968. Our set is 2183 of an edition of 2500.

The prints are in good condition and show Emily’s rendition of rangiora Brachyglottis repanda, turutu Dianella intermedia (blueberry), and tī ngahere Cordyline banksii (forest cabbage-tree).

The original watercolours, all large, are part of the collection Turnbull purchased from Emily Harris in 1924.

The 1968 prints sold so well that Turnbull issued a second set of four watercolours in 1980. These too can be found on many walls up and down the country. Together the two sets of prints constitute Emily Harris’s best-known work and have given a lot of pleasure to many people over the years.

We know of sets hanging in Melrose House in Nelson and a eye specialist’s waiting room on the Terrace in Wellington. We would be pleased to know about other sets on other walls.

Today, 28 March, is Emily’s birthday. At least, she thought it was, because there is no birth record from 1837, just the family’s memory of the event. In 1886, turning 49, she wrote in her diary:

March 28th. Today, my birthday, at least the day I keep for I am not quite sure that I was not born on the 1st of April. However it is the first time I ever remember my birthday being kept. Frances made me a cake with icing on it & I had Mrs Rodgerson to tea. The fact was that Frances wanted to try the recipe for a wedding cake, so at the beginning of the month she made two little cakes, one for Father’s birthday & one for mine, but neither of them were quite a success & certainly would not do for a wedding cake.
I wonder if I shall be at all fortunate this year. (Drawing Lines 4)

Happy Birthday Emily! Rā whānau ki a koe! Sorry about the less-than-successful cake from long ago. But your work is still admired and moving around the motu.




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