JARS v54n4 - In Memoriam: Martha Fort Prince

In Memoriam: Martha Fort Prince

Martha Fort Prince, artist, author, and nature photographer, died on June 24, 2000. Long a resident of Locust Valley, New York, she died, age 74, from breast cancer which she had survived for eleven years.

Ms. Prince was born in Alabama, the daughter of two well-known artists. Her mother was head of the Art Department at the University of Alabama, and Ms. Prince was studying in the mother's graduate classes by the time she was 5. Her father was an architect and printmaker, who headed the Southern Printmakers Association. Ms. Prince's work, botanical, even then, was first shown professionally when she was 12, at the Art Institute of Maryland (Baltimore), the Delgado Museum (New Orleans), and many others.

After obtaining her bachelor of arts degree from Piedmont College, Georgia, she studied at the Art Student's League in New York for two years with Reginald Marsh and Howard Trafton. She received a great compliment from Reginald Marsh who said, "Any artist would be very pleased to draw as well as you."

Her first job was with the United States Army as a civilian artist-illustrator, painting murals for Army mess halls, Veterans Administration hospitals, and the like. Next, she joined Mears Advertising in New York becoming art director. Her illustrations appeared in the New York Times , Harper's Bazaar , Life and other national magazines. Finding agency work too confining, she resigned in order to freelance (record jackets, book covers, brochures), and to concentrate on her own painting.

Ms. Prince specialized in botanic painting. Her work was published in American Horticulturist Magazine , many plant journals, The Royal Horticultural Society International Gallery of Flowers Plates , and editions of "Wildflower Notes" and "Flowers in the Wild." A selection of her work is in the collections of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Illustration of Carnegie-Mellon University and at Hofstra University Library (Special Collections). She is also represented in other public library and private collections.

One-woman shows of her work have been held at Callaway Gardens, Georgia, the Horticulture Society of New York, the National Arboretum, and the American Horticulture Society and Planting Fields Arboretum. She has also shown her work at Bayard Cutting Arboretum and has exhibited twice at the Islip Town Gallery.

A lifelong love affair with wildflowers started her on writing nature articles. This necessitated studying close-up photography, so she could paint flowers out of their growing season. She worked only from nature, or from her own slides and notes. Articles of hers, with her paintings and photographs, have appeared in such diverse magazines as Gourmet , Horticulture , American Horticulturist , The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine , and the Journals of the American Rhododendron Society and the North American Rock Garden Society .

She was a keen observer of nature and an inquisitive one. This lead her to develop an accepted hypothesis for solving the mystery of the lost Franklinia tree that John Bartram, the plant explorer, had originally discovered near Savannah, Georgia.

She was also a defender of nature and vigorously campaigned for wilderness designation of lands in the national forests. She was an advocate for our native azaleas which she wrote about and presented in many illustrated talks. The flame azalea, the "Sky Paint Flower," as the Cherokee Indians called, it was a particular favorite. She lectured to many plant societies and arboreta on plants, gardens, and nature.

Ms. Prince was a Life Member of the Art Students' League, an honorary member of the American Society of Graphic Artists, and member of horticultural and conservation societies, including Royal Horticulture Society, American Horticultural Society, American Rhododendron Society, North American Rock Garden Society, National Audubon Society, The Wilderness Society, and the Nature Conservancy. She was a board member of Friends of Planting Fields Arboretum.