Sarah Ann Drake

What little we know of Sarah Ann Drake is due to her working relationship with English botanist John Lindley. Lindley wrote a number of important botanical works in the nineteenth century, and often painted his own illustrations. However, as other responsibilities began to claim more of his time, Lindley went looking for a replacement illustrator. He found one in his daughter’s childhood friend, Sarah Ann Drake.

Drake was born on July 24, 1803, in Skeyton, a small village outside of Norfolk, England. As a young woman, she studied in Paris, where she practiced activities considered ladylike, including painting and drawing. She moved back to England in 1830 and lived with the Lindley family, where she held several roles, including that of governess. Ultimately, she became trained as a botanical artist. When she began working with Lindley, she based her drawings on living plants and sketches that were sent to Lindley from places like Brazil, Australia, and China. Her first illustrations appeared in Plantae Asiaticae Rariores. She was later published in Edwards’s Botanical Register, Ladies Botany, and Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.

Drake gained wide recognition for the extraordinary quality of her work. In addition to its exceptional quality, there was an exceptional quantity: Drake created well over 1500 illustrations in her lifetime. She was so crucial to Lindley’s botanic study that he named the genus Drakea after her. Sarah Ann Drake returned home to Norfolk in 1847 after the Edwards's Botanical Register ceased publication. She died ten years later in 1857.

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