Pollyanna Pickering, artist

Polyanna Pickering
Polyanna Pickering
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Pollyanna Pickering, who has died at 75, was a renowned wildlife artist and conservationist whose work adorned the shelves of Harrods and the homes of David Bowie and the actors, John Hurt and Virginia Mckenna.

Born in Rotherham and educated at the town’s art school and later the Central School of Art and Design in London, she was also an indefatigable champion of environmental conservation, both on the national and international stage.

Before she had decided to focus exclusively on wildlife, Bowie – who had bought an industrial landscape from her – asked her to go to Africa with him, as an “artist-in-tow”.

But her daughter, Anna-Louise, was only seven, and in fear of snakes and spiders, she declined.

Instead, became one of Europe’s foremost wildlife artists, her paintings reproduced on greeting cards, T-shirts, notebooks and ceramics. The tote bag she created for Harrods with a picture of a West Highland terrier was a perennial bestseller, and it was she who painted the Christmas bear on to the store’s gift range every year.

But she did not have an artistic background – her father owned a coffee business in Sheffield. However, she recalled drawing something for a teacher at primary school and being asked to take it around the other classes to show it off.

Even so, when at secondary school she announced that she wanted to pursue art as a career, her headmistress told her she would never make a living from it.

Nevertheless, the foundation course on which she enrolled at Rotherham Art College set her on a course for life, both professionally and personally. It was there that she met her future husband, the industrial designer Ken Pickering.

Her insistence on painting only animals she had observed in their natural habitats led her into a series of expeditions to some of the most inhospitable areas of the globe. In 2007, she was granted a fellowship from the Canada-based society, Artists for Conservation Foundation, to undertake an expedition into Bhutan.

Her love of wildlife extended beyond its representation as art. For 15 years she ran a sanctuary from her home in the Peak District, at first caring for and rehabilitating injured and orphaned raptors and later garden birds and almost every species of British mammal. She estimated that many hundreds of owls, hawks and falcons had passed through her care.

In 2001 the Pollyanna Pickering Foundation was established to continue her work. The launch party was attended by guests from Spain, Holland, France, Germany and Japan, and the first fundraising event, a celebrity garden party, was held that summer.

As well as supporting wildlife, the Foundation helps to support an orphanage in Ethiopa.

Ken died in 1979 and Pollyanna is survived by Anna-Louise, who was also her business partner.