~ Her fresh, limpid watercolours, with their thin pen line, have a light touch, but the paintings are careful, made with curiosity, intensity and love ~ David Gentleman
Emma began, aged 5, as a gardener who sometimes painted the radishes and marigolds she grew in her child-sized plot. Now she is a painter who also gardens. She is largely self-taught (no formal art education) and the work of Elizabeth Blackadder has been a great influence on her art. She has picked the brains of artist friends, particularly David Parfitt and the late Lindy Guiness. Her flower, fruit and vegetable watercolours on Japanese rice paper combine botanical accuracy with a free and lively line and, living on a hill farm in Roxburghshire, her garden is full of hardy plants that can survive the Scottish climate. In her greenhouse rare and exotic plants are cultivated to paint and her exhibition notes about the plants she draws are historical, scholarly and practical.
Emma exhibits her work every two to three years. Her most recent show A Celebration of Gardening held at Soane Britain showed her paintings and rag rugs together for the first time.
Early exhibitions were held at Malletts on Bond Street, London. More recent shows include Emma Tennant at Chatsworth (2013), Plants with Provenance (Fine Art Society, London 2015), Emma Tennant, Artist and Gardener (Sotheby’s 2018) to celebrate the preview screening of the documentary film of the same name and A Botanical Tour of Great Britain at the Garden Museum, London (2019). Collectors worldwide have also enjoyed shows in New York and Japan.
Aside from painting, Emma has been instrumental in the current revival of the craft of rag rug making. She designs and makes rugs in winter when there is nothing to paint in the garden. Her book Rag Rugs of England and America (Walker Books 1992) explores the history of this craft, a centuries old tradition in both countries.
Emma was Chairman of the National Trust Gardens Panel for 20 years and is a Fellow of the Linnean Society. Through her paintings she continues to champion gardeners.