Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Armchair Bird-Lover's Guide Two Lavish Books Provide Illustration and Commentary on the Habits and Habitats of Birds around the World

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Armchair Bird-Lover's Guide Two Lavish Books Provide Illustration and Commentary on the Habits and Habitats of Birds around the World

Article excerpt

MASTERPIECES OF BIRD ART: 700 YEARS OF ORNITHOLOGICAL ILLUSTRATION. By Roger F. Pasquier and John Farrand, Jr. Foreword by Roger Tory Peterson, Abbeville Press, 261 pp., $85 WILD BIRDS OF AMERICA: THE ART OF BASIL EDE. With Contributions by H.R.H. The Prince Philip, The Honorable Walter H. Annenberg, Jack Warner, and Robert McCracken Peck, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 125 pp., $75

A BIRD in the bush is worth two in a book these days, but often the bird in the book is all we have.

"Masterpieces of Bird Art" traces 700 years of bird illustration, noting along the way the various birds that have become extinct since they were depicted by artists. Others are disappearing fast, so we may be grateful for artists who have recorded them accurately.

It turns out that not all records are correct. Sometimes artists had only dead birds to paint without having ever seen what the birds did in life or even looked like alive.

Other times, artists had to reconstruct the bird's appearance from written or verbal accounts.

Maybe, as happened with Lebrecht Reinold at the end of the 18th century, the artist confused what he thought he saw (a southern African peregrine) with whatever he actually did see (probably a jaeger), added an invention or two, and produced a fiction, in this case a "Crested Peregrine Falcon" (see Reinold's painting to the left at the bottom of the page). There is no such bird.

THE authors of this book point out where other artists have gone wrong, a useful service. Even more helpful are comments on the habits and habitats of birds around the world that many of us may never see for ourselves.

Accuracy in bird illustrations is challenging in itself, but producing illustrations for books is also an art, as Roger Tory Peterson observes in his foreword to "Masterpieces of Bird Art."

During the 700 years covered, the technical processes of painting, drawing, and book production have altered the ways in which artists have depicted birds. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.