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The Art of the Bird

The History of Ornithological Art through Forty Artists

Roger J. Lederer

The Art of the Bird

Roger J. Lederer

224 pages | 200 color plates | 9 1/2 x 11 | © 2019
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226675053 Published September 2019 For sale in Canada, Mexico, and the USA only
E-book $21.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226675190 Published September 2019 For sale in Canada, Mexico, and the USA only
The human history of depicting birds dates to as many as 40,000 years ago, when Paleolithic artists took to cave walls to capture winged and other beasts. But the art form has reached its peak in the last four hundred years. In The Art of the Bird, devout birder and ornithologist Roger J. Lederer celebrates this heyday of avian illustration in forty artists’ profiles, beginning with the work of Flemish painter Frans Snyders in the early 1600s and continuing through to contemporary artists like Elizabeth Butterworth, famed for her portraits of macaws. Stretching its wings across time, taxa, geography, and artistic style—from the celebrated realism of American conservation icon John James Audubon, to Elizabeth Gould’s nineteenth-century renderings of museum specimens from the Himalayas, to Swedish artist and ornithologist Lars Jonsson’s ethereal watercolors—this book is feathered with art and artists as diverse and beautiful as their subjects. A soaring exploration of our fascination with the avian form, The Art of the Bird is a testament to the ways in which the intense observation inherent in both art and science reveals the mysteries of the natural world.
Contents
INTRODUCTION

1. FLEMISH BAROQUE ARTISTS 1580–1700

From the early seventeenth to early eighteenth centuries, Flemish painters favoured exotic birds as subjects, especially parrots and peacocks.

FRANS SNYDERS 1579–1657

CAREL PIETERSZ FABRITIUS 1622–54

MELCHIOR D’HONDECOETER 1636–95


2. EARLY ENGLISH ARTISTS 1626–1716

Animal representations were superseded by religious paintings and portraiture, but painters of these genres often worked with animaliers to add creatures to scenes.

FRANCIS BARLOW 1626–1704

JAKOB BOGDANI 1658–1724

MARMADUKE CRADOCK 1660–1716


3. NATURAL HISTORY 1680–1806

Explorers brought back specimens from exotic destinations, popularizing natural history. As new birds were discovered, collected, and named, the science of ornithology came into being with the help of artists who illustrated these new discoveries.

MARK CATESBY 1682/3–1749

GEORGE EDWARDS 1694–1773

AERT SCHOUMAN 1710–92


4. BEFORE ECOLOGY

Natural history focused on the identification of organisms. Naming became more standardized, thoughtful, and detailed, as did the art that accompanied it.

THOMAS BEWICK 1753–1828

LADY ELIZABETH SYMONDS GWILLIM 1763–1807

ALEXANDER WILSON 1766–1813


5. EARLY SCIENTIFIC ILLUSTRATION

Art began to accurately reflect the habitat and behaviour of birds, as observation revealed the subtle details of their physical appearance and their behavioural patterns.

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 1785–1851

PRIDEAUX JOHN SELBY 1788–1867

ELIZABETH GOULD 1804–41


6. IN THE AGE OF DARWIN

The age of Darwin was also the golden age of ornithology. Ideas about how birds’ shape, colours and behaviour came to be and what relationships they had were debated.

EDWARD LEAR 1812–88

JOSEPH WOLF 1820–99

WILLIAM MATTHEW HART 1830–1908


7. ART AND SCIENCE OVERLAP

As exploration of the natural world expanded, artists became important observers. Comparing species and varieties required artists to put more than one species on a page, and scientific monographs on specific bird groups became more common.

JOHN GERRARD KEULEMANS 1842–1912

ROBERT RIDGWAY 1850–1929

ARCHIBALD THORBURN 1860–1935

BRUNO LILJEFORS 1860–1939

ALLAN CYRIL BROOKS 1869–1946

LOUIS AGASSIZ FUERTES 1874–1927


8. BROADER APPEAL

The skills of artists, the variety of their styles, their publications, and their reach to communities outside of the art world stoked the public’s interest both in birds and art.

CLAUDE GIBNEY FINCH-DAVIES 1875–1920

LILIAN MARGUERITE MEDLAND 1880–1955

NEVILLE WILLIAM CAYLEY 1886–1950

JESSIE ARMS BOTKE 1883–1971

ERIC ENNION 1900–81

ROGER TORY PETERSON 1908–96


9. BIRD ART SUPPORTS BIRDS

When the environmental movement began in earnest in the latter half of the twentieth century, people noticed that bird habitats were disappearing and bird numbers declining. Artists helped to increase public awareness of these environmental issues.

JANET TURNER 1914–88

ARTHUR B SINGER 1917–90

KEITH SHACKLETON 1923–2015

WILLIAM THOMAS COOPER 1934–2015

JAMES FENWICK LANSDOWNE 1937–2008


10. ORNITHOLOGICAL ART EXPANDS

Bird field guides and illustrated books maintain their popularity but artists are also producing novel, creative and bizarre bird art that continues to enthral and inspire.

RAYMOND HARRIS-CHING 1939–

HILARY BURN 1946–

ELIZABETH BUTTERWORTH 1949–

LARS JONSSON 1952–

DAVID ALLEN SIBLEY 1961–


BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX
 
Review Quotes
Wall Street Journal
"The Art of the Bird makes any bird painting aficionado yearn for more."
American Scientist
"Art history and the history of science intertwine in this beautiful tribute to the scientific illustration of birds."
Laurence A. Marschall | Natural History
"Exquisite. . . . Ornithological gems such as Joseph Wolf’s gorgeous Crimson-bellied Tragopan, Roger Tory Peterson’s flock of flamingos in the Andes, and James Fenwick Lansdowne’s rainbow-plumed Chinese pheasant reveal not only the sophistication of avian art, but the extravagant global variety of avian species."
Apollo
“People have been trying to depict birds for 40,000 years, but Lederer suggests that their efforts really took flight some four-hundred years ago, in the work of Flemish artists such as Frans Snyders (Concert of Birds) and Carel Fabritius (The Goldfinch).”
10,000 Birds
"[There is] a growing subgenre of books about birds and art. This a rather catchall category of how-to’s, art/gift books, and scholarly titles such as the recently published The Art of the Bird. . . . But, it is an important one, since birding could not exist without art. It allows us to identify birds, appreciate finer details of their beauty and anatomical construction that we might otherwise overlook, respect their specific and adaptive habitats, and communicate their beauty and value to others."
Choice
"Beginning in the seventeenth century with the Flemish baroque period and continuing to the present, this book is a treasure trove of beautiful artwork and beautiful birds. . . . Full-color reproductions (many full page), mostly of paintings, lead readers through a history of art and artwork and of how the Western world has viewed birds since the 1600s. The artists are grouped mostly by time period but also by theme, as exploration and the scientific age changed the nature of illustration and spurred public interest in the environment and bird watching. Most of the artists are British or American, with a handful of Continental Europeans and artists working in the colonial realms of the time. Several women artists are included, from Lady Elizabeth Symonds Gwillim (1763–1807) to Elizabeth Butterworth (1949–). . . . Recommended."
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