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Holden_aprilartEdith Holden was an artist and naturalist. She lived most of her life in the West Midlands of England where she spent her time teaching art to students at Solihull School for Girls and working as an illustrator of children’s books. Holden’s paintings were often exhibited by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and in 1907 and 1917, by the Royal Academy of Arts. But as these things go, women were not at that time taken seriously as artists and by the mid-twentieth century she was nearly forgotten.

In 1906 Holden created a diary notebook of watercolor paintings. The text that went along with them included excerpts of poems related to the month and time of year and short notes about nature walks she took. She did not create the book as a diary but as a text for teaching in order to model nature observation for her students.

In the mid-1970s, Holden’s great-niece showed the notebook to a publisher. It was published in facsimile in 1977 as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Through the years over six million copies have been sold. There is a second book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady, that was published in facsimile in 1989.

Holden_aprilI read the first book, The Country Diary, and what a delight it is. At first I thought it was meant to be a diary and was disappointed that the text was not more detailed. I do love her neat hand though and the sepia color of her ink makes me want to find a bottle for my own pen.

The beauty and detail of the book is in the paintings. They are a real delight. She had a keen eye for color and composition. While I rushed through the text, I spent time just looking at and enjoying each drawing.

Sadly, Holden died in 1920 when she was only 49. While reaching out over a backwater of the Thames to break off a branch of chestnut buds she fell in and drowned.

I borrowed my copy from the library because of Grad. I am glad I spent time with this book. It was a pleasure to look at the paintings when the snow was deep, the temperatures arctic, and spring seeming so far away. For a little bit more about Holden and some more photos of her art, visit Morning Earth.

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