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BIRDS: THE ART OF ORNITHOLOGY
Bibliophile price: £9.00
Beautiful, erudite and accessible are just some of the words of praise showered on this gorgeously produced and substantial volume from the Natural History Museum no less, guiding the reader through the history of ornithological painting and print-making. Although the explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries brought back specimens of flora and fauna, conservation techniques were limited and the role of artists in recording detail was crucial to scientific investigation. New ornithological discoveries still continue to be made from old prints, for instance a reassessment of the identity of the White Dodo of Reunion Island, now thought to be a conflation of two species. Pliny's Natural History of the first century AD dominated the next millennium, and in the 12th century the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II wrote a groundbreaking treatise on birds, offending the church authorities. The Renaissance saw a surge of pictorial detail, and a watercolour of a woodpecker by Pieter Holsteyn the Younger is a miracle of textured realism. 18th century artists such as John Abbott, a Londoner working in America in the tradition established by William Bartram and Alexander Wilson, developed the arts of expressive line in studies such as Abbott's Blue Heron. Towering above them all, the early 19th century hand-coloured aquatints of John James Audubon are regarded as the pinnacle of ornithological art, although Audubon's career was dogged by hardship. The native Indian artist Khuleelooddeen produced extraordinary nest studies, while Lady Mary Bentinck's watercolours have a clarity which anticipates the golden age of lithography which followed. A stunning book printed on quality paper, very modestly priced. 9½" x 10", 336pp, colour reproductions throughout.
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