The Cattleyas of Anne Link


Historically, botanical illustrations done in watercolor have been the common way to paint orchids. These illustrations were started as a means of documenting the discovery of new plants during the 1700s and 1800s, and the plants and flowers were painted to the exact measurements of the original plants and as close as possible to the same color as watercolor pigments allowed. As time went on, commercial orchid companies found the photographic quality of botanical illustrations stimulated the interest of their customers in buying their newly imported plants, and wealthy hobbyists had their favorite orchids painted to adorn the walls of their homes so they could enjoy them when they were not in flower.

Botanical illustrations are still the most popular orchid pictures painted today, so it is unusual to see an artist appear who presents orchid flowers in a non-traditional manner. The popular American artist of the mid-1900s, Georgia O’Keefe, was one of the first people to break with the concept of the botanical illustration. O’Keefe painted a wide variety of flowers including a few orchids, but she painted them many times their natural size so, as she said, people could see what she saw in the flowers and “be surprised.”

A more recent artist, Anne Link, has followed in the footsteps of O’Keefe in painting orchids on a grand scale. Unlike O’Keefe, however, Ms. Link painted primarily orchids and mostly cattleyas. Because of the uniqueness of Anne Link’s cattleya paintings, they are worthy of note in the orchid world and a few of her most famous and frequently seen canvases are shown here. Unlike botanical illustrations which offer little in the way of backgrounds, one of the most fascinating aspects of Ms. Link’s paintings are the backgrounds which are enticing bits of color that help her orchid story unfold.

Anne Link was born Anne Clark Chadwick on January 8, 1969, and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado where she painted large canvases in oils. Graduate studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, led her into huge installation art pieces at several galleries in Manhattan. Link was a resident of New York City for most of her professional life, where she is known for her environmental themes. Link began painting orchids following surgery for ovarian cancer in August 2005, while recuperating at her parents' home in Delaware, selecting plants to paint from A.A. Chadwick's collection. She painted the 18-foot- (5.5-m-) long canvas of Cattleya mossiae while living by the sea in Cape May, New Jersey, in winter 2006-2007, using the photographs of C. mossiae from her father's articles published in Orchids magazine.

Ms. Link, who died on July 15, 2007, will be remembered for her acrylic paintings of cattleyas, several of which were on exhibition recently at Rockefeller Center, Longwood Gardens and the Delaware Center for Horticulture.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - 12:00