Barbara Mary Steyning Everard nee Beard
Barbara Everard was born, the eldest daughter of three to Charles and Rosalie Beard, nee Russell, the second daughter of Philip Russell, at Telscombe Manor, Near Brighton, Sussex on July 27th 1910.
In 1936, Barbara worked at a fake antique business in Deans Yard, off Dean Street in Soho, London owned by Ernest and Walter Thornton-Smith. Here, while others copied Canalettos' and minute Chinese mirror paintings, she learned the art of making fake Chinese wall papers. Paid 30 shillings a week as a beginner, she soon mastered the skills and rose to a senior position, being commissioned to work at Fortnum and Masons to do murals and decorating tea-tables; a curtain for the new Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road and touching up furniture, fabrics and gilding in the homes of the wealthy. This intricate painting was to serve her admirably in later life as it was this training, together with night classes at Ealing School of Art, that remained evident in her botanical watercolour work in later life.
During the slump, work dried up and in 1938, while she was working as a lady's companion to Lady Davis at Chilham Castle, Kent, she married in secret, Raymond Wallace Everard (Ray), one of eleven children, born on January 15th 1915. Shortly after their wedding, Ray was appointed to an assistant-manager's job in the Singapore Cold Storage, then part of Malaya. However, he had not told his employers that he was married so Barbara was forced to stay in England, only joining him when the pressure of the separation grew too much to bear.
With the outbreak of war in Europe, they felt that it was time to have a child so a son, Martin, was born on July 7th 1940. In February 1942, Singapore fell to the Japanese and Ray, having joined the Malacca Volunteer Force, was taken prisoner. Barbara and Martin escaped on the last boat, the "Duchess of Bedford" to successfully evade the Japanese and return safely to England.
Ray survived the three and a half years of being a prisoner of war, being forced to work on the Siam Railway and the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. However, with the war over and after a short repatriation to England to recuperate, he sailed once again to Malaya to help open up the rubber plantations for the Dunlop Rubber Company.
Barbara and Martin sailed on the "Mauretania" to join him in 1946. While living on the rubber estates around Malacca, Barbara began collecting and painting tropical plants and orchids. Estate bungalows were large, ill-decorated and, with bare walls, unhomely so inspired by a friend she started painting large watercolour still lifes to fill the empty spaces. Soon, she exhibited at flower shows and grew her collection. Her first exhibition was held in Singapore on March 31st 1950.
Barbara and Ray returned to England in 1951, Martin having been sent home to boarding school three years earlier On her return, she exhibited a collection of studies of Malayan orchids at the Royal Horticulture Hall in Vincent Square, London and was awarded the first Grenfell Gold Medal. At RHS exhibitions subsequent to this she was to be awarded many more.
For the next thirty years, she embarked on a career as a commercial botanical artist, completing many private commissions of floral paintings together with illustrations on a number of coffee table books, botanical publications, gardening magazines, greetings cards and commemorative plates. One of these commissions was for Mr John Gurney at the Medici Society to paint the studies of wild flowers of Britain, a task that took ten years and resulted in around 950 plates being completed. This work, designed to be a companion to the Bentham & Hooker's Field Guide, has never been published. She also added to the family with the birth of a second son, Anthony, in 1953.
Barbara had two paintings exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 1965 and at numerous exhibitions in London, Brighton, Belfast, Farnham, Emsworth, St Albans and many others. Paintings were exhibited at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh and at the Garden Centre of Greater Cleveland at the dedication of their new building in January, 1966.
That same year, Barbara also designed a set of flower painting postage stamps for the Postmaster General, which were shown at Stampex - they were commended but were not accepted but published in the Philatelic Bulletin in July 1967.
In 1975, with a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, Barbara travelled back to Malaysia to create botanical paintings of endangered plant species, including the Rafflesia on Mt Kinabalu, and on completion of the project, was made a Lifetime Member of the Trust.
Books that were published include: Wild Flowers of the World by Brian D Morley and published by Rainbird; Trees and Bushes of Europe and Flowers of Europe - a Field Guide by Oleg Polunin, both published by the OUP and Flowers of the Mediterranean by Oleg Polunin and Anthony Huxley, published by Chatto and Windus.
By the time of her death in 1990, Barbara had become one of the world's leading and highly praised botanical artists.
The centenary of her birth is now celebrated here with a virtual exhibition of a selection of her work, potentially numbering around 2,000 paintings, together with the publication of her autobiography, "Call Them the Happy Years". The search is now on to locate the paintings to digitally record them and to design a virtual 3D exhibition gallery which will enable her work to be seen by everyone as if in a real gallery.