Other Ways of Looking at Nature

Other Ways of Looking at Nature


Born in 1904, Irene Manton’s remarkable scientific career began with a scholarship to Cambridge University, followed by postdoctoral studies in Sweden and Manchester. It was her pioneering research on chromosome spiralization and fern cytotaxonomy which lead to Manton’s appointment as Professor of Botany at Leeds, in 1946. Here, she established the first laboratory in the world focused on the ultrastructural study of plants. Using cutting-edge electron microscope technology, Manton was at the forefront of understanding life in its smallest building blocks.


Manton became an avid collector of Chinese and Abstract art, hanging Hans Arp, Picasso and Mondrian (‘the bathroom tiles!’) on the walls of Botany House in Leeds, alongside electron micrographs of her own work. She wrote that her collection ‘should not be thought of primarily as fine art, but rather as the working tools with which a scientist endeavors to comprehend certain aspects of the modern world which are not science’.


Botanist, cytologist and microscopist, collector and curator, Manton was a committed interdisciplinarian before the term had been invented. The totality of her work points toward the porous boundary between scientific and non-scientific representations of the natural world. This exhibition displays treasures from the Peter Scott Gallery collection that share Manton’s fascination with the space in between art and science.


WITH: Henri Matisse, William Turnbull, Rebecca Chesney, Katriona S. W. Persson, Terry Frost, Paul McDevitt, Charles Hadcock, Paul Kenny, Lui Shou-kwan, Wu Chi-tsung