While the Loyalist Legacy exhibition officially closed yesterday, our stories continue! Today we feature the daughter of Loyalists, Mary Green Flower. Mary was born 13 January 1794, the daughter of James Caleb Green (1747-1825) and Elizabeth Carpenter Green (1759-unknown), who were United Empire Loyalists. Mary had seven siblings, several of whom had their portraits painted by Mary’s husband, Anthony Flower. Mary Green Flower was married to Anthony Flower on 4 July 1820 by Reverend Samuel Clark at the St. John’s Anglican Church in Gagetown, New Brunswick. She and her husband had four children, who were raised on the family homestead on the Washademoak Lake at MacDonald’s Corner, New Brunswick. Mary died 13 September 1867. On the Flower Family Record, Anthony notes that his “dear dear Mary” died at 6pm. She is buried with her husband, who died in 1875, in the MacDonald’s Corner Baptist Church cemetery.
The painting shown here is one of the treasures of our collection and truly, a piece of provincial significance. It is a watercolour on paper, mounted on card, painted in 1836 when Mary was about 42 years old. She is depicted wearing a pink dress with a pale yellow sash, and she is set against a dark green background. She has a bow in her hair, and is also wearing a gold necklace and gold drop earrings – very stylish. The detail of the painting indicates a high-point in Anthony Flower’s career; he continues to paint for another 30 years, however his works of the 1830s are remarkable. On the lower left corner of the painting is the inscription “Paly Green” (aka Polly, a nickname for Mary) and the painting is signed “A. FloWER 1836” on the lower right. Mary was one of the primary muses for Anthony Flower with several paintings of her throughout his career, the first known work done in 1822 and culminating in an 1867 watercolour that experts believe is post-humous. Anthony Flower did paintings of Mary’s parents, the Loyalists James and Elizabeth Green, which are part of the collection of the New Brunswick Museum but not part of the Loyalist Legacy exhibition.
Watercolours were a relatively new medium at the time that Anthony Flower began to use them. The first exhibition of watercolour paintings took place in London, England in 1805, whereas Anthony Flower’s first watercolour painting, a rose bud, is dated 1804. Most of Anthony Flower’s paintings, especially the portraits, are watercolour on paper. Flower tended to sketch his subjects in graphite prior to painting a portrait, suggesting that his subjects formally sat for him.
Anthony Flower, who is taking his place as one of Canada’s preeminent pre-confederation painters, was born to Cornelius Flower (1760-1828) and Margaret Nicholson Flower (no date) on 4 March 1792 in the Ratcliff-Wapping area of Middlesex County, a part of London, England near the River Thames. Anthony Flower had two sisters, Mary and Martha, and several half-siblings who were born to Eliza Ann Ball Flower, Cornelius Flower’s second wife whom he married after the death of his wife Margaret. In 1808, Cornelius Flower moved his family to Little Heath Great Farm in Hertfordshire, England, near the village of Berkhamsted. Anthony Flower lived with his family at Little Heath Great Farm until immigrating to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1817 aboard his father’s ship, the Trent. By 1818, Anthony Flower had bought from John Clark a 200 acre plot of land on the shores of the Washademoak Lake in MacDonald’s Corner, New Brunswick. On this land, Flower built his frame house, which is now the Anthony Flower House Museum in Cambridge-Narrows, New Brunswick, and developed his homestead. He married Mary Green Flower (1794-1867) on 4 July 1820, and together they raised four children: Cornelius (1822-1890), Margaret (1825-1894), James (1829-1918), and Mary (1835-1922). Anthony Flower lived, farmed, and painted at MacDonald’s Corner until his death on 9 December 1875, and he is buried with his wife Mary in the MacDonald’s Corner Baptist Church cemetery. Their house and land remained in the possession of their descendants until 2002 when the contents, including many paintings, were put up for auction. The house was then acquired by the Queens County Historical Society. There is no evidence to suggest that Anthony Flower ever sold a painting, and most Flower paintings have been found in the possession of Anthony Flower’s descendants or in the possession of the descendants of Flower’s friends and relatives.
For more information about Mary Green Flower and the Loyalists of Queens County, join us for the 2011 Ghost Walk and Dessert Theatre on 1 October or visit the Anthony Flower House next summer. Note: Extracts from the above article are from research and text by Ann Catherine Lowe, exhibition catalogue, The Life and Art of a Country Painter.