Amanda Newton (illustrator)

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Amanda Newton (ca. 1860-1943) was a botanical illustrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who specialized in paintings of fruit.

Early life and education

Amanda Almira Newton was born around 1860. She was the granddaughter of Isaac Newton, the first commissioner of the USDA, who died when she was a child.[no citations needed here]


Newton worked for the USDA from 1896 to 1928.[1] This was a time when the major fruit-producing regions in the United States were just beginning to emerge, as farmers worked with the USDA to establish orchards for expanding markets. Photography was not yet in widespread use as a documentary medium, so the government relied on artists like Newton to produce technically accurate drawings for its publications.[2] Newton was one of 50 botanical illustrators hired in this early period, and she was one of the most productive, turning out more than 1200 finished watercolors for the USDA.[no citations needed here]

Newton's artwork for the USDA covered a wide range of fruit and nuts, principally apples, of which there are many hundreds of examples. There are also paintings of strawberries, plums, citrus, persimmons, avocados, and cherries, as well as fruits that are still not commonly grown in the continental United Sates such as loquat and baobab. Most of her watercolors show a whole and a half fruit in full color; a few (such as the strawberry and cherry paintings) show foliage as well. Her style is precise and detailed, combining vigorous lines with subtle color modulations. Newton signed her work 'A.A. Newton'.[3]

Champion quince (Cydonia oblonga); watercolor by Amanda Newton, 1909.
Japanese persimmon (variety Hachiya); watercolor by Amanda Newton, 1915.

In addition, beginning in 1896, Newton made wax models of some 300 new specimens. She inaugurated production of these wax models for the USDA and later showed some of them at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.[4]

Newton's orginal paintings are now in the USDA National Agricultural Library Pomological Watercolor Collection.[no citations needed here]


  1. Calhoun, Creighton Lee. Old Southern Apples: A Comprehensive History and Description of Varieties. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011.
  2. Fusonie, Alan E. "The Heritage of Original Art and Photo Imaging in USDA: Past, Present, and Future." Agricultural History 64:2 (Spring 1990).
  3. "Amanda Almira Newton's watercolors". Website of the United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, Special Collections.
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Report of the Secretary of Agriculture for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1897. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1897.

External links