World-renowned Leeds artist dies, aged 85

Raymond Booth, pictured in is home studio in 2008.
Raymond Booth, pictured in is home studio in 2008.
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A Leeds artist widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading wildlife painters has died at the age of 85.

Working from his home in Alwoodley, Raymond Booth’s natural history paintings went on to be exhibited in public and private collections around the world.

An example of Raymond Booth's work, 'Finch on Blossom'. Photograph by John McKenzie

An example of Raymond Booth's work, 'Finch on Blossom'. Photograph by John McKenzie

Born and raised in Roundhay, he trained at Leeds College of Art, after winning a scholarship, and lived and worked in the city his entire career.

He had eight one-man shows at The Fine Art Society - London’s oldest commercial art gallery - as well as an exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery in 1984 which travelled to Crescent Art Gallery in Scarborough and Cooper Gallery in Barnsley.

One of his greatest projects was making 85 paintings to illustrate the book Japonica Magnifica, published in 1992, for which he grew and painted many rare species of Japanese plants. An exhibition of the paintings was shown at the Hunt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh in 1996 and went on to New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Chicago.

There was also a major retrospective of his work at the Leeds City Art Gallery in 2002, during which American crime-writer Patricia Cornwell bought a number of his paintings and generously gave one of them - a fine study of an American plant, Vollmer’s leopard lily, Lilium Pardalinum - to the Leeds collections. This is currently on show in the art gallery.

Another prominent collector of his work was the late Alan Clark, Conservative MP, minister and celebrated diarist.

Gordon Cooke, managing director of Mr Booth’s long-term representative, The Fine Art Society, said: “He was an artist who had shown with us for I believe 50 years and was one of the most respected artists who painted plants, animals and the natural world.

“He was very private and a man completely without vanity. In my experience, he was the only artist I can think of who didn’t come to his private views. He just wanted to get on with his work in peace and quiet. I think in this day and age that is an extraordinary thing. He had a number of collectors who bought works from the gallery who, like us, are greatly saddened by his death.”

Evelyn Silber, who was director of Leeds Museums and Galleries from 1995 to 2001, said Mr Booth was “a botanical artist and plantsman of international renown but so reclusive and obsessively dedicated was he, so indifferent to public recognition, that he was little known in his native county.”

She said: “His Leeds house - where none of his own work was visible - gave no clue that here lived and worked the doyen of British botanical artists though the sharp-eyed might have deduced from his books and from the innumerable orchids and other rare plants being nurtured in his garden and greenhouses, that he was a formidable plantsman.”

He leaves a widow, Jeanne Booth.