Francis George Heath

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FRANCIS GEORGE HEATH English (1843-1913)

Heath Fern lithographAuthor and editor of a significant collection of writings on the subject of socio-agricultural life, England's Francis George Heath (1843 - 1913) is best remembered from an artistic perspective for his studies of ferns. The plants were immensely popular with the Victorians, who regularly used them to adorn their gardens, and wealthy collectors, who grew them in complex and elaborate ferneries to protect them from the elements. In fact, fern-hunting holidays were far from uncommon. A great lover of foliage, Heath himself happily advised people to take to the countryside "with a garden fork, a stout chisel, a hammer, a strong clasped knife, and a trowel" to get up "the entire mass of roots and rootlets". It was, he declared, "a delightful pursuit, which can be followed all the year round".

In 1885, Heath published the Fern Portfolio containing 15 masterfully executed chromolithographs of various English ferns. The aim of the portfolio was to produce realistic, life-size depictions of the fronds, accompanied by detailed and informed descriptions written by Heath himself. The beautiful series combined several studies of different British ferns arranged carefully and creatively in collage with the plants' colors replicated as closely as possible.