Walter Hood Fitch

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Walter Hood Fitch (28 February 1817 – 1892) was a botanical illustrator, born in Glasgow, Scotland, who executed some 10,000 drawings for various publications. His work in colour lithograph, including 2700 illustrations for Curtis's Botanical Magazine, produced up to 200 plates per year.[1][2]


Fitch was involved in fabric printing from the age of 17 and took to botanical art after meeting William Jackson Hooker, Regius Professor of Botany, a competent botanical illustrator, and the editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine. Fitch's first lithograph of Mimulus roseus, appeared in the Botanical Magazine in 1834, and he soon became its sole artist. In 1841 W.J. Hooker became director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Fitch moved to London. After 1841 Fitch was the sole artist for all official and unofficial publications issued by Kew; his work was paid for by Hooker personally. It was not unusual for him to work on several different publications simultaneously; he could draw directly onto the lithographic stone to save time. These chromolithographs were based on botanical illustrations provided by Hooker and others, and produced some of his most spectacular results.[3]

Fitch's important works are his illustrations for William Hooker's A century of orchidaceous plants (1851), and for James Bateman's A Monograph of Odontoglossum (1864–74). He also created around 500 plates for Hooker's Icones Plantarum (1836–76) and four lithographic plates for the monograph Victoria Regia.[4] The latter work received critical acclaim in the Athenaeum, "they are accurate, and they are beautiful".[5]

Plate 2, Victoria amazonica, of Victoria Regia, 1851

Other works were with George Bentham and for J.D. Hooker's Handbook of the British Flora (1858 and many editions). When Joseph Dalton Hooker returned from his travels in India, Fitch prepared lithographs from Hooker's sketches for his Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya (1849–51) and, from the drawings of Indian artists, for his Illustrations of Himalayan Plants (1855). He also produced the illustrations presented in the younger Hooker's The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage, consisting of three volumes covering the flora of the Antarctic, New Zealand, and Tasmania collected on the Ross expedition of 1839 to 1843.[2]

A dispute over pay with J. D. Hooker ended Fitch's service to both the Botanical Magazine and Kew in 1877. He was much sought after and remained active as a botanical artist until 1888. Works during this period included Henry John Elwes's Monograph of the Genus Lilium (1877–80). His renown as a botanical illustrator was such that his obituary in Nature stated "... his reputation was so high and so world-wide that it is unnecessary to say much on this point.".[6]

The standard author abbreviation Fitch is used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical name.[7][8]

His nephew, John Nugent Fitch (1840–1927), also produced illustrations for Curtis's Botanical Magazine.


  1. ^ "Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892)". Kew, History & Heritage. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Fitch, Walter Hood (1817 - 1892)". Collectors & Illustrators. Australian National Herbarium. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  3. ^ "Plants and Gardens portrayed". LuEsther T. Mertz Library. The New York Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  4. ^ Victoria Regia : or, Illustrations of the Royal water-lily, in a series of figures chiefly made from specimens flowering at Syon and at Kew by Walter Fitch; with descriptions by Sir W.J. Hooker. 1851.
  5. ^ Allibone, Samuel Austin (1863). A critical dictionary of English literature and British and American authors. 1. George W. Childs. 
  6. ^ News. Nature 45, 302-302 (28 January 1892)
  7. ^ Brummitt, RK; Powell CE (1992). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-085-4. 
  8. ^ "Fitch, Walter Hood (1817-1892)". Author Details. International Plant Names Index. 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Walter Hood Fitch - A Celebration Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, HMSO, London.

External links[edit]