The Life and Work of Nellie Roberts
5 - 22 September 2019
Nellie Roberts was born in 1872, the daughter of William and Rebecca Roberts who ran a watchmakers shop at 92 Loughborough Road (what was formerly 72) for over 30 years until 1908.
When Nellie was in her teens, she started to show her flower-paintings in the family's shop window. Local orchid growers, the Measures family lived nearby in Flodden Road and spotted Nellie's orchid paintings at a time when the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Orchid Committee was looking for an artist to document life-sized portraits of its award-winning blooms. Nellie was taken on in 1897, subject to a six-month trial, and stayed for 56 years, painting over 4,000 award-winning orchids for the RHS committee and thousands more for private collectors and the North of England Orchid Society.
Nellie painted all her orchids in the flat above the shop. She died on 29 March 1959 and is buried in an unmarked public grave in Lambeth Cemetery. Her orchid paintings are still used by the RHS Orchid Committee in their decision-making when a submission is compared to previous awards given to the same orchid species or hybrid. The RHS collection of paintings by Nellie also provides a rich history of orchids, their hybrids and their illustration - an incredible achievement for the almost certainly self-taught artist.
A selection of Nellie’s orchid paintings are on display at San Mei Gallery. Alongside originals painted from her flat on Loughborough Road, there are prints, projections and articles referring to her life and work.
This exhibition is part of the Loughborough Road heritage project run by LEAF tenants residents association with support of National Lottery Heritage Fund, Lambeth Archives and Brixton Society. With thanks to the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library, RHS Orchid Committee, Lambeth Palace Archives and San Mei Gallery for their support.
TALK: Thursday 12th September 7pm, tickets £5
Deborah Lambkin, the RHS’ current orchid artist, will talk about the life and work of life long Loughborough Road resident Nellie Roberts and the role and history of RHS orchid artists.