Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Banksia Lady:
Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist

By Carolyn Landon


"This is the story about the development and making of a scholar of botanical art, told with great feeling and understanding."
— Trevor Blake
, Growing Australian

Banksia Lady is the story of Celia Rosser, internationally acclaimed botanical illustrator, who dedicated her life to painting the entire genus of Banksia, the only artist to have done so. Her dedication to the task put her at the centre of the Monash Banksia Project for twenty-five years, and culminated in the production of an extraordinary three-volume florilegium that became one of the great books published in the twentieth century.

Banksia Lady reveals the emergence of an artist who grew up in difficult circumstances during the Great Depression and who pursued her art as a way of protecting herself from the harsher side of life. The story follows Celia’s struggle to pursue her artistic passion while fulfilling the expectations that women of the 1950s would subordinate themselves as wives and mothers. As her children became more independent, she recognised opportunities and, eventually, found a place at Monash University to fully express herself through her art.

In telling this story of Celia Rosser’s unparalleled talent and extraordinary achievement, this book explores the history of botanical illustration, botany, academia, gardens and their herbarium, and Australia’s place in changing the shape of the world.

About the Author

Carolyn Landon has written several award winning memoir/biographies focusing on ordinary people whose lives define and are defined by the times in which they live, but this is the first time she has set her sights on a subject already known and admired for her extraordinary talents and artistic achievement. Landon is a newcomer to the world of Botanical Art, but has become a convert concerning all things botanical through her work with Ms Rosser. In order to fully understand who her subject is and what she has achieved, Landon has explored the history of art, history of Australia, history of botanical discovery, history of botany and the institutions that grew from discovery and science. Most importantly she has learned the place of artists in the midst of it all.

Carolyn Landon is author of Jackson”s Track; Memoir of a Dreamtime Place (Penguin); Jackson's Track Revisited; History Remembrance and Reconciliation (Monash University Publishing); Cups with No Handles; Memoir of a Grassroots Activist (Hybrid Press) and Black Swan; A Koorie Woman's Life (Allen & Unwin). She has a Masters Degree in Biography and Life Writing, and is an Adjunct Research Assistant at Monash University.

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