Bunny Mellon Botanical Art Garden Comes to New York City

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Garden design and botanical art are two major items on the agenda for the New York Botanical Garden right now. For years, the Garden enjoyed collaborating with the late Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon. She was a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden, and is credited with helping to expand their understanding of botanical art.

Upon her unfortunate passing, the Garden hoped that they would be able to find a way to honor her. Now, they are showcasing a selection of her work from her private library in an exhibit titled “Redouté to Warhol: Bunny Mellon’s Botanical Art.” The exhibit includes over 80 works ranging from the 14th to 20th century. In addition, it is also the largest public display of art and objects from the Oak Spring Garden Library, which Mellon founded on her estate in Upperville, Va.

Mellon was a huge fan of both French and Dutch art, so some prominent works featured in the exhibit include rare works by artists such as Jacques LeMoyne de Morgues, Pierre Joseph Redouté, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

Throughout the course of her life, Mellon, who died at 103 years of age, had a storied and successful career. She redesigned the White House Rose Garden during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. She was also a known art collector and philanthropist. Her library, which was private but was open to academics by invitation, included over 10,000 volumes on botanical subjects.

“In partnership with our close friends at The New York Botanical Garden, we have the pleasure of sharing the special qualities of Mrs. Mellon’s world with a broader audience through this exhibition,”said Sir Peter Crane, president of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, which maintains the Oak Spring Garden Library and promotes academic research and scholarship in the fields of natural history, botany, horticulture and landscape design. “We are deeply grateful for this opportunity and hope that all who visit Redouté to Warhol will enjoy their glimpse into Mrs. Mellon’s unique domain.”

The exhibit was a long time in the making, with planning beginning almost two years ago. Susan Fraser, the vice president and director of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at The New York Botanical Garden, had met with a trustee who had just visited the New York Botanical Garden, and he suggested an exhibit about Mellon’s work. Fraser then came together with Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi, who was friends with Mellon and very familiar with her work, and Tony Willis, who spent years work at Oak Spring Garden library.

“Selecting what to showcase was the most difficult part about this exhibit, and the Garden only has so much space for a showing,” Fraser said. “In the end, it actually ended up being a rather quick process, since the three of us all selected things that meshed well with each other.”

The artwork for the exhibit started coming in several weeks ago, as they wanted to insure they could do things like the bookbinding in advance. The team was very focused on capturing Mellon’s life and essence as a collector and gardener, so they worked had a talented team of designers adapting the rotunda of the Garden to be something that spoke to Mellon’s character.

Their hard work and Mellon’s beautiful selection of pieces she collected over her life can be viewed from October 8 to February 12.

Visit the New York Botanical Garden’s website at

All photos courtesy of Oak Spring Garden Library. 


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