Meg Page has been credited with helping to revive the centuries-old art of naturalist painting, but her work is perhaps better described as a kind of portraiture. She captures in exquisite detail the appearance of her subjects—whether flowers, frogs, snakes, or chickens—and goes beyond the surface to convey a sense of life and dignity. That combination of realism and a sense of the spiritual gives her paintings their remarkable and timeless appeal.
Although she does most of her work in her Baltimore studio, she finds inspiration, subject matter, and an “aesthetic haven” at Gentle Farm, the country retreat her husband, David Ashton, has carefully restored. The farm fulfills a childhood longing of Meg’s to be closer to nature than growing up in suburban Towson, Maryland, allowed. Meg envied her Virginia cousins who lived on dairy farms. “I thought my cousins lived in heaven,” she says.
At the Cleveland Institute of Art she studied painting and did well, but it wasn’t challenging enough. A major in photography seemed more practical, and it led to a job in commercial photography. With that, she says, “I kind of let the art thing go.”
“One day I saw a pear on a branch, and I thought it was so beautiful,” Meg recalls. She made a Polaroid transfer of it but thought it would look better without the background. “I realized if you got rid of the background, you had a botanical,” she says. Even though the paintings she makes now evoke the botanical tradition, she doesn’t see herself as a botanical illustrator. “I was a painter who loved nature and started leaving out the background,” she says.
Meg looks at her subjects through the lens of artists from the Renaissance through the 18th century, especially Albrecht Dürer, who painted closely observed bits of nature as well as Madonnas and Biblical scenes. “I’m constantly looking back at art history and learning from it and mining it,” she says.