Maria Frances Ann Morris, 1813 – 1875

Nova Scotia Archives

Artist, Teacher, Poet

Maria Morris was one of those individuals who could infuse science into her art. Or was it art into her science? Her specialty was botanically accurate drawings of plants.

Maria grew up in a family where female education was considered important, not an afterthought. That was rarer than one might think early in the 19th century. As a young adult, she attended Dalhousie College where she received training in art. Outside those classes in technique, the local legendary polymath Titus Smith encouraged Maria to depict wildflowers. In the early 1830s, during breaks from her studies at Dalhousie, Maria operated schools in Halifax for teaching drawing and painting to other young women. In 1840, she would marry Garret Miller of La Have, and later have several children. Yet it was her artistic output that gave — and continues to give — her renown.

Between 1839 and 1867, Maria Morris published four series of outstanding botanical lithographs. Each collection was sold to paying subscribers, and each was filled with striking illustrations of wildflowers. They are some of the earliest botanical sketches created in Canada. In total, Maria Morris's published output consisted of 99 sheets presenting 146 species of flowers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and eastern Canada. The sketches can be seen equally as floral art and as studies in botanical science.

Maria Morris's work was praised in London, England and some of her botanical paintings were featured at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867. In addition to her artwork, Maria also combined with her sister Catherine to author a volume of poetry entitled Metrical Musings, published in New York in 1856.