Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born Liverpool, UK, on 25 June 1825. Died 1919 in Adelaide, SA.
Margaret Cochrane Little was born on 25 June 1825 in Liverpool, England, into a large middle-class family. She enjoyed private school tuition and acquired skills in needlework, music and rudimentary art. As a young woman, she was a lively, inquisitive and intelligent feminist, who actively advocated gender equality.
When Margaret was 28, her family emigrated to South Australia, settling in the Adelaide suburb of Hackney, not far from the newly established Botanical Park and Garden. In 1861, at the age of 36, Margaret married David Wylie Scott, who was connected to the Little family through a business partnership.
Margaret often painted delicate flowers from nature in situ and, in the 1870s, like many other women artists, she began recording various local wildflowers in a sketchbook.
In 1893, she moved to Rock Tavern, a picturesque valley near Norton Summit in the Adelaide Hills. Margaret found a special affinity with the orchid species that thrived in the virgin landscape and became the subject of her paintings. The exquisite orchids are painted with gouache on brown, grey and green-coloured paper, chosen specifically to complement the flowers. The botanical plant names and locations are recorded in black ink, along with Margaret’s initials for those examples held at the National Library of Australia.
Margaret’s exquisite wildflower watercolours were exhibited for the first time in 1893, in an Adelaide exhibition. At another exhibition in 1895, Viscountess Kintore, wife of the Governor of South Australia, greatly admired Margaret’s unique paintings. She purchased a significant collection to take back to England for herself and friends, the Glasgow Art Gallery in Scotland and the then Duchess of York, who was later crowned Queen Mary.
In 1899 Margaret had a number of her drawings and watercolours of Adelaide published in a book presented to another Vice Regal wife, Lady Buxton, who was returning to England with her husband. A collection of Margaret’s native flower paintings was also exhibited in London in 1900.
In later years, Margaret lived with her daughter in the Adelaide suburb of Marryatville, where she continued painting into her nineties. She died at the grand
old age of 94.
Source: Extracted from: Women of Flowers, by Leonie Norton (2009), National Library of Australia
Examples of artwork: