Tuesday, October 9, 2012–Friday, January 25, 2013
Eloise Payne Luquer was born in Brooklyn in 1862 and grew up 50 miles away, in Bedford, New York. Inspired by her local countryside, she began drawing and painting nature at an early age. As her love for art grew, she worked to paint as many of the region’s wildflowers as she could. By the mid-1930s, Luquer had captured on paper more than 375 plant species—many of them North American natives. Melding art with science, her subjects ranged from traditional portraits of wildflower bouquets to striking fungi-covered logs to naturalistic scenes of plants nestled in their native habitat. An early and passionate conservationist, Luquer devoted her life and great talents to instilling a value of, and love for, the natural world.
Like many young women of her time and social milieu, Eloise Luquer was educated at home. Her father sometimes engaged in drawing, and Luquer followed suit. She also took lessons in landscape painting and found early inspiration in trips to museums and galleries in New York City and Europe. Although she worried at first that painting flowers would be of little practical use, her study of botany—as well as a strong interest in conservation and education—gave her work focus.
In 1892, Luquer was elected to the Torrey Botanical Society, and she served as the Bedford Garden Club’s botanist for many years. She was also instrumental in establishing the Pound Ridge Reservation Nature Trail and Museum in Westchester. The first exhibit of her work was held in 1910 at the Pratt Institute, followed by many others during her lifetime and beyond. In her career, she painted over 400 studies of plants; on most she recorded the day they were executed, creating an important record of growth, bloom time, and other information about local species.
Luquer traveled far and wide with her paintings—first by horse and buggy and later by automobile—with the goal of engaging the public in protecting and conserving wildflowers and other plants. She used her paintings as teaching aids, often including color legends with her compositions to help her viewers identify the plants and learn their names. She also reviewed and updated the plant names in pencil to reflect changes in botanical nomenclature. Over her long career, Luquer presented her plant lectures to everyone from garden club ladies and college students to penitentiary inmates and psychiatric patients.
After her death in 1947, the Bedford Garden Club established and endowed the Eloise Payne Luquer Medal for special achievement in the field of botany. The medal is awarded by the Garden Club of America.