Snow-Bunting and Twite by Archibald Thorburn, 1924
"Snow-Bunting and Twite" by Archibald Thorburn from Thomas Coward's The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs, 1924
In this lovely full-color engraving, three small brown birds nestle into the sand near tall spikes of grass. Their speckled brown feathers are carefully drawn and the rounded yellow beaks bring a touch of bright color to the picture. In the background, a seagull flies over the blue waters of the Atlantic in the distance. At front left is a male Snow-bunting, who - despite his preference for snowy climates - sometimes spends winters by the water. The bird in the right of the print is a Twite. Although its coloring is similar to the Snow-bunting, it is easily marked by a burst of pink above its tail. The Snow-Bunting and Twite, both passerines (commonly called songbirds), can be found in Scotland.
Archibald Thorburn - a native of Midlothian, Scotland - was born in 1860. He is well-known as one of the greatest illustrators of bird prints. The son of an artist, he first studied in Edinburgh, but later moved to London to attend St. John's Wood School of Art. After his father's death, he then came under the tutelage of the respected animal artist Joseph Wolf. Throughout his life, Thorburn illustrated numerous scientific books on ornithology. He later exhibited at the Royal Academy. Thorburn traveled across Scotland to observe his subjects, even rejecting the use of electric light in his studio in order to enhance the naturalism of his watercolors.
Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs was a three-volume collaboration between Thorburn and scientist Thomas Alfred Coward (1867-1933). It has since been praised as one of the most successful ornithology books of the 20th century, and was one of the last books published before both men's deaths in the early 1930s.
- Onastasia Youssef