Sherwood, Shirley 1933-

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SHERWOOD, Shirley 1933-


Born July 1, 1933, in St. Albans, England; daughter of Geoffrey Masser (a surveyor) and Norah (a painter; maiden name, Bailey) Briggs; married Michael J. Cross, 1958 (deceased); married James Sherwood (a company director), 1977; children: (first marriage) Charles, Simon. Education: St. Anne's College, Oxford, M.A., 1955; Council for National Academy Awards, Doctorate of Philosophy, 1977. Hobbies and other interests: "Collecting botanical art."


Office—20, Upper Ground, London SE1, England.


Smith, Kling, and French Labs Ltd., Welwyn Garden City, England, biologist, 1965-77; Orient-Express, train historian, 1977—. Organizer of exhibitions and art seminars and courses. Judge on botanical painting committee for the Royal Horticultural Society, London; trustee of Royal Botanical Gardens Foundations, Kew; honorary trustee, American Society of Botanical Artists.


(With C. G. Curtis, and others) Whole Body Autoradiography, Academic Press (London, England), 1982.

Venice Simplon Orient-Express: The Return of the World's Most Celebrated Train, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1983, 4th edition, Motorbooks International (Osceola, WI), 1996.

Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection, edited by Victoria Matthews, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1996.

A Passion for Plants: Contemporary Botanical Masterworks from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, Cassell (London, England), 2001.

Contributor to scientific papers. Published magazines about train travel.


Shirley Sherwood takes her hobbies very seriously. A biologist who helped developed the antiulcer drug Tagamet in the 1970s, she became interested in her husband's career as well as her own. James Sherwood, an English entrepreneur, restored the Orient-Express, which he bought after it had stopped service in 1977. By 1982 he had restored the rail cars to their original art nouveau and art deco style, while updating them to meet current safety codes. Shirley Sherwood documents how they acquired the cars and details their restoration process, such as how marquetry-panel decorations were restored by finding the families with the original drawings. The process ends in the train's reopening with a trip from London to Venice via the Simplon Tunnel. Sherwood also covers the history of the Orient-Express from the mid-nineteenth century to its heyday between World War I and World War II. She tells the history of individual train cars, one notable, Sleeping Car 3309, which was snowbound in Turkey for ten days in 1929 and also was part of a train that was bombed by Hungarian terrorists. Josephine Baker, the cabaret singer, was on that train and tried to calm others with her songs.

Sherwood discusses the statistics of the train and its route, such as how many passengers traveled during the first six months of reopening and how many drinks are consumed on a one-way trip. The entire project cost eleven million pounds. The book has more than one hundred black-and-white and color photographs to aid Sherwood's details. A New Yorker critic was impressed, "And her account is illustrated with more than a hundred perfectly wonderful photographs of the train … and of the details of decoration that make it the gorgeous extravagance it is." Chris Wall of the Los Angeles Times Book Review wrote of the book, "The result nicely documents the return of the regal line." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times concluded that "there is something here for everybody, from train buffs to social historians."

In 1990 Sherwood visited the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens near London while researching an article on botanical art. This project and her visit renewed an interest in botanical art she had as a young girl. She bought her first botanical painting at the Kew and since then has purchased hundreds of pieces of botanical art, which developed from scientific drawings in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, especially after Europe's discoveries in the New World. Its popularity waned during the twentieth century, but Sherwood has been credited for reviving botanical art by sharing her collection through her two books. John Kress, head of botany at the U.S. National History Museum, said, "Almost single-handedly, she's brought people to appreciate botanical art."

In Sherwood's 1996 book Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection, she shares her collection through color reproductions of more than one hundred artists. Sherwood provides artist biographies and stories relaying how she compiled her botanical collection. The subjects range from pansies, mushrooms, and lilies to rare tropical plants. A critic from Publishers Weekly called it a "glorious book." Alice Joyce claimed in Booklist that "Sherwood's energetic collecting and passionate approach to the subject have brought about a stunning assemblage certain to delight anyone with a love of art or fascination with horticulture." Another Publishers Weekly contributor agreed, writing that "Descriptions combined with sumptuous, full-page illustrations make this a book that will appeal to botanists, those nostalgic for 18th-century nature painting or anyone who just wants to page through delicate and beautiful images."

Sherwood follows up her success with reproductions from her collection since 1995 in A Passion for Plants: Contemporary Botanical Masterworks from the Shirley Sherwood Collection. Sherwood introduces the book with a section comparing classic botanical paintings with the work of modern artists. The bulk of the book includes more than 200 reproductions with author biographies and their method of painting as well as Sherwood's relationship with each artist. Smaller reproductions are featured in an appendix. Sherwood includes a list of the artists in her collection and a guide to finding botanical art. Booklist's Carol Haggas praised the work, writing: "Captivating and commanding, this opulent compilation superbly showcases vivid new interpretations of familiar subjects." Marit McArthur Taylor concluded in Library Journal that Contemporary Botanical Artists "has become the standard reference work for botanical artists; this book will be an equally important purchase for both botanical and art collections." Sherwood also organizes painting classes taught by botanical artists and exhibits her collection in museums such as the National Museum of Natural History.



Booklist, October 15, 2001, Carol Haggas, review of A Passion for Plants: Contemporary Botanical Masterworks, p. 366; April 1, 2003, Alice Joyce, review of Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection, p. 1364.

Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Marit McArthur Taylor, review of A Passion for Plants, p. 107.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 29, 1984, Chris Wall, review of Venice Simplon Orient-Express: The Return of the World's Most Celebrated Train.

New Yorker, March 26, 1984, review of Venice Simplon Orient-Express, p. 12.

New York Times, February 24, 1984, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Venice Simplon Orient-Express.

Publishers Weekly, June 24, 1996, review of Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection; March 17, 2003, review of Contemporary Botanical Artists.


Art/Technology Web site, (April, 2003).

Orient-Express Hotels Web site, (January 1, 1997).

Smithsonian Institutition Web site, (June 2, 2003).*