The long-running journal required a dedicated illustrator, and when Joseph Hooker sought a replacement, his second cousin Matilda Smith was inducted to become Kew's Botanical illustrator. She learned the craft that her immediate predecessor had described as ‘the analysis of a dried flower, from an herbarium specimen, perhaps very small, worm-eaten and gluey, and having no apparent analogy to any known plant.’
Smith was to become first official botanical artist of the leading authority, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Between 1878 and 1923, Smith drew over 2,300 plates for the Curtis's and other publications. She also made reproductions for the library of the institution, which were added to the incomplete works held there.
Associate of the Linnean Society (1921), the second woman to have been appointed there. Plant genera, Smithiantha and Smithiella, were named in her honour.