Nirupa Rao is a botanical illustrator based in Bangalore, India. Her work is inspired by regular field visits, and informed by close collaboration with natural scientists.
A National Geographic Young Explorer, Nirupa received a grant to create her book Hidden Kingdom—Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats (published in 2019). She has also published Pillars of Life—Magnificent Trees of the Western Ghats (2018), a debut project in collaboration with ecologists Divya Mudappa and TR Shankar Raman of the Nature Conservation Foundation. She illustrated the cover of Amitav Ghosh’s novel, Gun Island, and re-jacketed four of his older novels for Penguin-Random House. In 2020, she received the prestigious National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship to create the animated short film Spirit of the Forest.
In 2021, she was the youngest artist to be featured in Kew Botanical Garden’s Indian Botanical Art—An Illustrated History, a book by celebrated writer Martyn Rix. She was also featured in the BBC documentary Nature and Us—A History Through Art.
In 2022, she was artist-in-residence at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Centre, and exhibited her works at their museum. She collaborated with the Centre for Wildlife Studies on Wild Shaale (‘Wild School’ in Kannada), an environmental and conservation-education program designed for rural school-going children, aimed at nurturing interest and empathy toward India’s wildlife and wild places. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she recorded art classes to be televised on the national channel Doordarshan, as part of a program coordinated by the Going to School Foundation, and conducted a workshop for Science Gallery Bangalore‘s PHYTOPIA exhibition. She has also been named an INK Fellow, one to ‘watch out for’ in Forbes India‘s annual 30 Under 30 issue, and one of Harper‘s Bazaar India‘s ‘Indian Women to be Proud Of’.