Mulford B. Foster's Art
from images in the
Michael A. Spencer Bromeliad Research Collection
Mulford B. Foster was born on December 26, 1888 in Elmer, N. J. He completed
a business degree and worked at a bank and for his father's newspaper. Mulford Foster first
visited Florida in 1912 and was fascinated by Spanish moss. When he moved to Florida in
1923, he learned that Spanish moss is a bromeliad. This discovery fired his interest in
bromeliads although he also collected amaryllids, cacti, orchids, palms and various other
tropical plants. Foster went on collecting trips to Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica,
Mexico and other South American and Caribbean countries. During the course of his travels,
he discovered several new species of plants, many of which are named after his family, such
as Zephranthes Fosterii and Greigia Racinae. Aside from plant collecting, he worked as a
landscape gardener and a plant hybridizer and seller. He was also a founding member of the
Bromeliad Society and edited their journal, Bromeliad Society Bulletin.
Foster began painting in 1923 without any formal artistic training. He exhibited his paintings in Florida, Maryland and New York. Most of his paintings were representations of plants, but he also painted landscapes and other subjects. Foster used many styles to represent his environment ranging from botanical drawings of the specimens that he discovered to an abstract self-portrait. He painted in oils on canvas, wood, or rice pith and also used pencil, watercolors and crayons.
Mulford Fosterís second wife, Racine, wanted to document his work and asked James Elmore
to photograph it. The images in this web exhibit are largely the result of those efforts.
They are grouped by topic and style. The styles do not represent specific artistic genres
but general categories to facilitate the display of so many images. Few of the images have
names; if you know the title of a piece, please email us at the address below.
These images are taken from the Michael A. Spencer Bromeliad Research Collection that also holds correspondence, publications, notebooks, drawings, research materials and memorabilia documenting Mulford and Racine Foster's work. Arrangements for using the collection may be made by contacting: