Martha King

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Martha King (c.1803 – 31 May 1897) was New Zealand's first resident botanical illustrator. She was also a teacher and gardener. She was born in Ireland.[1]


The taua, a large forest-tree. Drawn by Martha King. (1842)

King emigrated to New Zealand in December 1840, arriving at Wellington on board the barque London. She travelled with her eldest sister Maria and her brother Samuel Popham King.[2] The Kings were foundation settlers in Wanganui, where they had purchased a section from the land acquired by Colonel William Wakefield. They sailed to Wanganui on board the Elizabeth, arriving on 27 February 1841. King and her sister opened Wanganui's first school soon afterward.[1]

In September 1842 King was commissioned by the Wellington Horticultural and Botanical Society to prepare two sets of drawings of interesting indigenous botanical specimens, one to be forwarded to the Directors of the New Zealand Company and the other to the London Horticultural Society.[2] Exactly why King was chosen for this commission is unknown.[3] The first set of forty watercolours were completed by January 1843, reaching the New Zealand Company in London in September 1843; it was acquired by the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1981.[3] The second set has disappeared without trace.[2]

In December 1847 the King family moved to New Plymouth, sailing on board the Ralph Bernal.[1] Apart from the botanical watercolours, all that remains of King's work are sixteen pencil sketches depicting scenes of Wellington, Wanganui and New Plymouth, dated between 1841 and 1859.[2] Although King later exhibited at the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879, no other examples of her work have survived.[3] King died at her New Plymouth home on 31 May 1897.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Long, Moira M. "Martha King". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Dawson, Bee (1999). Lady painters : the flower painters of early New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Viking. pp. 13–27. ISBN 0670886513. 
  3. ^ a b c Dr Patrick Brownsey; Eagle, Audrey (2013). The essential Audrey Eagle. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Papa Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 9781877385902.