Madonna of the Virginia Plants: Margaret Farr

Margaret “Betsy” Farr is a Manassas Virginia based botanical painter whose work has been collected by both the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Denver Botanic Garden. Her work can be seen at the Catholic Information Center in Washington D.C.

CAT Editors: Can you define your artistic point of view?

Margaret Farr: I can’t function, in art or in life, outside of an ordered context.  In the former, I am governed by the Church and a lively faith.  In painting, my efforts are made within the confines of my notion of the traditions of Western art, of Catholic doctrine, and of objectively definable beauty.

As in faith, in art there is no challenge in inventing a new wheel, but there is a lot that is interesting in working from within meaningful boundaries. When in doubt, I look to Raphael.

CAT Editors: So why the plants?

I came to the painting of religious images after many years of producing botanical art. Close observation of nature has always inspired profound respect for the beauty of God’s creation, and is in fact how I most frequently draw near to Him.  (No pun intended.)

Of course, there is a rich history of surrounding Our Lady with plant life, often loaded with symbolic meaning.  In my own paintings, I frequently depict flora and fauna to be found in my own area of Virginia approximate to the feast days of the apparition or appellation of the image depicted.

A favorite subject is “Regina Caeli Laetare,” in which a profusion of spring growth surrounds the Virgin at the time of the Resurrection.

CAT Editors: What does the feminine in art mean to you?

Margaret Farr:

“In painting the Madonna, I am, in addition to honoring the sacred, obliged to consider the feminine ideal.”

For that, to quote Raphael, “I use a certain idea, which comes into my mind.” Using no sitter, I am freed to explore a visage and a personality which literally appears at the end of my brush. It is invariably a sweet yet powerful young Jewish woman, who guides the lives of countless millions, male and female alike, by means of virtues exceeding anything embedded in the word “feminine.”

See more of Margaret Farr’s work:

American Society of Botanical Artists

Madonna of the Rosary

Baby Cyclamen

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