Chinese Leaves

Between 1817 and 1830 a tea inspector stationed in china bought and commissioned beautiful drawings of plants and animals to send back to London. Today they are known as the Reeves collection and are a set of eight albums containing nearly 900 Chinese watercolours. Recently, information about the collector John Reeves and about the Chinese painters and pictures was brought to light.

Early Years in China

John Reeves (1774-1856) first went to Canton (now known as Guangzhou) in 1812 as an assistant in tea inspection for the British East India Company. Back then this company had the domination of trade between England and China. He worked shortly in London in 1816, 1817 and once again in1824, but he lived in China until he retired back to the UK in 1831. 

Reeves returned to China for the winter ‘tea season’ in 1817. He wasted no further time in selecting his first painter who was described as ‘one of the best native artists’, because the minutes of the council for July 1818 reveals that 29 commissioned drawings had been received, together with others.

Later History of Reeves Collection

During the 1820s, Reeves sent hundreds of pictures and many plants, back to England, all prepared carefully for the long voyage home. However, by then, the Horticultural society started to fall into financial difficulties, and pictures were sold off to raise money. Unfortunately, in 1830 Reeves was asked to discontinue his collecting on behalf of the society. 

Restoration in Progress

Many of the paintings from the Reeves collection have sadly deteriorated due to changes in paint pigments, discolouration from glue, or in some cases water damage. Nevertheless, the support and help of the KT Foundation will definitely ensure the picture’s future. 

Blue Iris Landscapes is a garden maintenance company who is keenly interested in knowing the backgrounds of the plants and how to look after them so that as you as the customer can get the best out of your plants. For more information or if you have any questions regarding your garden please contact us.