'I paint flowers as a way of getting as close as possible to what I perceive as the truth, my truth of the time in which I live' Rory McEwen once observed of himself and it is this quality of contemporaneity combined with the most acute observation that makes McEwen’s botanical drawings among the most remarkable produced in the 20th Century. Coming from an artistically gifted aristocratic Scottish family, McEwen had first made flower drawings, aged eight. Under the instruction of a French governess, he then went on to paint others while still a pupil at Eton under the guidance of the art master there, Wilfred Blunt, at that time working on his great pioneering book The Art of Botanical Illustration. From him, McEwen had learnt to look at Redoute, Ehret and the other great 18th Century botanical artists. Otherwise he had no formal art instruction, finding that by the time he had left the army having done two years national service aged 20 'I sat down and painted a rose and found to my surprise that my hand had unknowingly educated itself'. This drawing, made ten years later, shows the tulip in its abandoned, post-meridian stage, the baroque swirl with which it is placed on the page revealing it to be something much more than straightforward scientific description, a study rich with a meditative symbolism about life and death.