Maria Werneck de Castro did the history of the Brazilian botanical illustration in the second half of our century. The recognition of her work is due, mainly, to the rigor when reproducing the details of the species and to the technical and artistic quality of the drawings which made possible to use them for determining the species drawn. Her creative capacity, associated to the scientific knowledge of the botanists with whom or for whom, she worked, resulted in such a perfect work, not only of the artistic point of view but else of the scientific point of view.

In everything she illustrated, she was greatly worried about obtaining the highest degree of precision and fidelity. No work reached such richness of details and that is her difference.
Her personality, her passion for what she did, her capacity of being always well disposed to communicate her knowledge, influenced a new generation of Brazilian illustrators who consider themselves as her followers.

It has been 30 years of botanical illustration (she painted until she was 85 old), always well disposed to guide everyone who asked for her help. Everyone who talks about her, not only points out the technical perfection of her work, but also emphasizes her way of conducting her own life, putting her heart and soul in all things she did, her personality, her capacity of arising emotions and the force which seems to bud from her interior, pours out in the contact with people and crystallizes in her watercolors making the drawing species seem to be alive elements projecting out of the paper.

She participated in exhibitions in the United States (Washington and Pennsylvania), Japan, South Africa, Denmark and also em Brazil. The Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt Library (Pennsylvania) e Botanical Museum of Copenhagen has bought some of her works.
In spite of the great number of exhibitions she has participated and the recognition obtained by her works from the illustrators here and abroad, she remains unknown to the great public, include the orchidists. This is due to two reasons: First of all, Maria Werneck is extremely modest, she does not accept to be called "master" even by people she has influenced directly; Second, she considers that her work, as well the work of every botanical illustrator, needs to be recognized in view of the scientific contents it can communicate and, as result, it should be put at the disposal of the greater number of researchers and not be for that reason, should remain at the disposal of the researchers and not be hanged in a wall of a home. The main purpose is the scientific documentation, not esthetic reasons. That is why she gave her work to the collection of National Library, Rio de Janeiro, believing that, in this way, more people will have access. The main purpose is the scientific documentation, not esthetic reasons. That is why she gave her work to the collection of National Library.

With his death, in Rio de Janeiro City, in 2000, March 12th, the country becomes poorer, become less generous and less beautiful...
And now, remains our recognition and our admiration for what Maria Werneck has represented to botanical illustration and to Brazilian orquidophilia.
And our sadness...

Maria Werneck with Dulce, her friend and disciple
With Delfina de Araujo

See here the interview Maria Werneck gave to our magazine Orchid News

See here Maria Werneck de Castro's site (homepage)