botanical painter, was born at Rhodes (now Concord) on the Parramatta River, New South Wales, third daughter of Thomas Walker and Anna, neĆ© Blaxland. In 1832 Thomas Walker moved the family to his property in Van Diemen’s Land, near Longford, which he had also named Rhodes after his mother’s home near Leeds, Yorkshire. When he died in 1861 the family returned to the Sydney property. Annie Walker also spent some time (c.1850) with her Blaxland grandparents at their property, Newington, near Parramatta, and often recalled these idyllic days. Her grandmother, she said, used to encourage an interest in nature in her children and grandchildren by taking them on walks in the bush. The girls would collect (and later draw and preserve) flowers and plants, while the boys shot birds and had them stuffed. Annie also received instruction in watercolour painting from Henry Curzon Allport there: 'he was a pupil of Glover’s [ John Glover ] and the best to be had in Sydney. The Breakfast room was on that morning given up for our use and such pleasant mornings they were for 2 hours. He was also a delightful companion, having such a good library of his own.’ About this time she painted a watercolour of her Longford home (ML) and possibly other extant sketches, for she rarely dated her work.

The botanist Ferdinand von Mueller , with whom Walker corresponded, described her as 'a genial floral artist’. She was certainly prolific. The Mitchell Library holds eight volumes of her botanical watercolours done in Tasmania and New South Wales between 1875 and 1910 and a series of five lithographs from drawings she made of views around Longford. She exhibited with the New South Wales Academy of Arts from 1873. Ten of her Tasmanian flower drawings were included among the Academy’s exhibits at that year’s Agricultural Society Show, while her flower paintings forwarded to the 1873 London International Exhibition were awarded a gold medal. She received a certificate of merit from the NSW Academy in 1876 for her watercolours of Tasmanian flowers.

At the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition four of Miss A.F. Walker’s watercolours of Australian flowers in the New South Wales Court were highly commended, while her large collection of flower pictures and fifteen panoramic landscapes in the Ladies Court were awarded a first degree of merit. The judges reported that such a very large collection was 'evidently better suited for an album than as pictures, but the delineations are faithful’. With her sister Marion, she showed 'Two Songs set to Music by Exhibitors’ and albums of ferns. The latter received another honourable mention. Seven groups of flower paintings were sent to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition together with a copy of her gold medal. The 'Flower Pictures, and Fifteen Panoramas’ she showed in the NSW Ladies’ Court at the same exhibition were awarded a first prize. She won many awards for her flower paintings, although always proudly remaining an amateur gentlewoman. An enormous surviving watercolour panorama of Wentworth Bay , Ryde 1884 (Powerhouse Museum: exhibited Sydney by Ferry , MoS 2002) has a separately framed base inscribed with the Walker family’s connections with the place, apparently in protest at a compulsory cut about to be made through the family land for the railway line.

The paintings Miss Walker presented to Queen Victoria on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Jubilee (which also included a genealogy) were apparently acknowledged with some warmth. In 1887 she privately published Flowers in New South Wales in Sydney, which contained only ten poorly coloured chromolithographic plates (by Turner & Henderson) accompanied by short descriptions. In 1890 she published a small pamphlet on the origin of the name Blaxland. Her unpublished reminiscences contain vivid anecdotes, an inordinate pride in her colonial ancestry and a sentimental and ignorant, although often novel, understanding of the natural world.

Fahy, Kevin
Date written:
Last updated: