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KEW | Marianne North ‘A World in Paintings’

Following Trunk’s beautiful Fungi film for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the team got back in touch about a film to highlight the amazing legacy of Marianne North.

Described as ‘Kew’s Forgotten Queen’ Marianne North was a Victorian phenomenon. She spent half her life capturing the natural world in stunning oil paintings of exquisite detail. A remarkable endeavour but astonishing when you realise as a lone Victorian woman she painted in the most remote, dangerous and extreme environments on earth. From spending months in a hut within the Amazon Rainforest, to climbing through the jungles of Borneo, and crossing the Australian bush, she created over 800 paintings that beautifully describe the flora of our planet.

Her legacy is displayed within the spectacular Marianne North Gallery within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Conceived and created by the artist herself the gallery is a jewel with paintings arranged from dado to ceiling covering every inch of the galleries walls. Yet, whilst this is the oldest permanent solo exhibition by a female artist in the world, it is relatively unknown.

Trunk’s director Rok Predin’s short film brings attention to this little-known artist. Using Marianne’s own paintings and words as a vehicle, Rok’s film introduces and explains the life of this remarkable Victorian. Unlike the majority of 19 century botanical painters, Marianne always painted her specimens in the environment in which they grew, giving the team the inspiration to take the viewer on a wonderful journey into the paintings themselves. The film is beautifully voiced by Emelia Fox, who has already followed Marianne’s footsteps once before in the BBC 4 documentary; Kew’s Forgotten Queen. And the sound and mix was brought to life by the amazing team at Fonic, altogether creating a truly encapsulating journey.

To create this absorbing effect Trunk’s team had to digitally deconstruct and reconstruct the paintings, creating layers that contained individual cut out elements, as well as under painting the missing areas, all in the manner of Marianne! Luckily the creative’s at Trunk have experience of mastering other artists styles, notably for Coldplay’s Ghost Stories when they recreated artist Mila Fürstová’s beautiful album artwork, and for David Gilmour when they re-created Gustave Doré’s etching style.

Layla noted that “Being able to re-create portions of the paintings was essential, although we used a mix of Marianne’s work, a number of her paintings were created in portrait, so we needed to paint in additional material to expand the edges to the 16:9 film format. Although seemingly an outrageous proposition, Marianne herself followed a similar practice. When she was hanging her work in the gallery, she wanted everything to fit exactly, and if it didn’t, then she painted extra edges onto her canvases, ensuring her paintings would look their very best together”.

The short film, created using Photoshop, After Effects, Cinema 4D and Flash, is being released on International Women’s Day. The perfect moment to both highlight the work of this little-known artist, and celebrate the drive and energy she had to create for the nation. Marianne’s plan was always for the audience to first see the gallery, be inspired by the beautiful plants in their habitats, and then go and see them for real in Kew’s stunning gardens. So when you do arrive, head straight to the gallery, get inspired, and then go plant hunting yourself!

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