In Memoriam: Hedvig Ostern

Nancy Halliday with Hedvig Østern, GNSI conference, Washington DC, 1996.It is with profound sorrow that I inform you of the death of my friend, nature illustrator Hedvig Østern of Norway. Elaine Hodges introduced us at the GNSI conference in 1988, and we have remained pen friends since. Hedvig came again to the GNSI conference in 1996, and in 1998 I visited her at her home and studio near Drammen. Only then did I realize the full extent of her artwork. Despite physical disabilities and poor health, Hedvig had nevertheless documented much of Norway’s alpine flora in watercolor. Hedvig did not limit herself to flowers: she also painted fungi, fossils, and butterflies, teaching herself by making models of butterfly wings.

> Nancy Halliday with Hedvig Østern, GNSI conference, Washington DC, 1996.

Hedvig was well-known in Norway. She was commissioned to design and paint 19 stamps for the Norwegian postal service, many Christmas sticker-stamps, souvenir-scarves, postcards, stationary, calendars, posters and even China porcelain. She was also a clever seamstress, sewing and hand-painting items of clothing (I have several).

Pears: ‘keiserinne’ paere (Pyrus communis l.) , by hedvig østern, 2003, for “norsk genressurprogram for kulturplanter, etter akvarell av Hedvig østern, 2003”

> Pears: ‘Keiserinne’ Paere (Pyrus communis l.), by Hedvig Østern, 2003, for “Norsk Genressurprogram for Kulturplanter, Etter Akvarell av Hedvig Østern, 2003.”

Hedvig was a member of the GNSI, the Society of Botanical Artists (England), Graphic Designers and Illustrators (Norway), and the Royal Horticultural Society (England). She exhibited widely, participating in group shows in Norway, the U.S., England, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Japan. At the RHS show in England in 2000, she won a gold medal, and one of her paintings was purchased by Shirley Sherwood! Hedvig was given at least five one-person shows in her home country.

Hedvig’s health had always been limiting. She suffered severely from rheumatoid arthritis and was often in pain. Her shoulders and fingers had stiffened, and in 1991, she had both knees replaced (one was again replaced in 2007). She had broken both arms at times (which recovered), and a kidney was replaced in 1991. She developed osteoporosis and diabetes in her later years and suffered a heart attack in 1997. But she was determined to paint, and paint she did, to the end. She would travel to England with a relative and a walking aid to see the botanical art exhibitions. This was a truly dedicated lady!

Mushroom: Albatrellus ovinus, fåresopp. An ectomycorrhizal species almost exclusively connected to natural stands of pica abies (Norway spruce), edible.Hedvig married Tore Østern in 1962 and they had no children. In his forays as a nature photographer, Tore would often collect wild plants in places where she was unable to walk and bring them back to her to paint. Hedvig was very devoted to her family and was very deeply affected when her mother died in 2005, and particularly when her niece died of cancer at only age 27 in 2007. On October 28, 2009, she died at age 62 in an Oslo hospital.

> Mushroom: Albatrellus ovinus, fåresopp. An ectomycorrhizal species almost exclusively connected to natural stands of Pica abies (Norway spruce), edible.







Strawberries, by Hedvig Østern, 1994.Hedvig said that she was just a “simple illustrator: ..I am satisfied if I can make anyone happy for a while, looking at my paintings and products.” (personal letter, May 5, 1994.)

> Strawberries, by Hedvig Østern, 1994.

Share this post: