Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.
Shelf Life: On the Trail of Birds and Beasts
[ Library and Archive )
To coincide with our new Print Room exhibition Birds and Beasts: The Wild Escape, our Librarian Jane Holt highlights illustrations of wild flora and fauna – plants and animals – discovered in our Library and Archives.
Drawing on Pallant House Gallery’s extensive collection of works on paper, on display are prints, drawings and small sculpture by such artists as Elisabeth Frink, Graham Sutherland, Enid Marx and Carolyn Trant, depicting bees, bugs, birds and beasts, fish and fowl, plants and flowers.
Animals and nature are a fundamental inspiration for artists throughout the centuries, and images of birds and beasts are myriad. Here are a few we found hiding in the Library!
Agnes Miller Parker, Frontispiece (1948)
Agnes Miller-Parker (1895-1980) was born in Scotland and studied (and briefly taught) at the Glasgow School of Art. She moved to London and worked mainly as a wood engraver and book illustrator. This example of her work illustrates the writings of the famous novelist and nature writer, Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) who spent the last years of his life in Sussex. Miller-Parker’s wood-engravings of birds can be seen in the exhibition.
Norman Ackroyd, St Catherine’s Hill
This evocative etching of the trees on St Catherine’s Hill near Winchester is from a limited edition book of ten etchings for ten poems celebrating the landscape and history of the Itchen Valley in Hampshire. It was a collaboration between locally born author and poet, Jeremy Hooker, and artist and printmaker Norman Ackroyd, RA. Ron and Willow King at Circle Press produced the publication for Winchester School of Art Press. A work by Ackroyd is in the exhibition.
Rabbits and hares were once common sights in the British landscape. Hares, being shy secretive creatures, are rarer to see than rabbits. As we are now in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, here are some rabbits (and hares).
Will Maw, Histoire Naturelle d’Impremerie Economique or the Index of One Million Pounds
This image of rabbits is from series of prints based on collage works using printed money as a ground. Will Maw graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1996 and completed his Masters in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in 2009. He worked mainly through Glasgow Print Studio and exhibits nationally and internationally.
Margaret Bruce Wells, September Leverets
This depiction of young hares (leverets) is by Margaret Bruce Wells (1909 – 1998). Born in Scotland to a middle-class family, she studied at Glasgow School of Art (1928-1933) then Brook Green School, London under Leon Underwood (1890-1975). Bruce Wells specialised in wood engravings and lino-cuts, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the Society of Wood Engravers (elected honorary member in 1995).
Carolyn Trant, Hare
A more stylised image of a hare, giving a sense of the ancient myths that surround the animal. Carolyn Trant is a contemporary artist making Artists Books using woodcuts and a variety of formats including codex, concertina and carousels. She has collaborated for many years with the award-winning poet, James Simpson. More of her work is on display in the exhibition.
John Skeaping, Animal Drawing, How to Do It
This beautiful drawing of a deer and bird of prey is the cover of John Skeaping’s book on drawing animals. Skeaping (1901-1980) was a sculptor and painter born in Essex. He studied at Goldsmiths College, Central School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal Academy School, winning the ‘Prix de Rome in 1924. Skeaping was married to artist Barbara Hepworth from 1925 to 1933 and exhibited alongside her. He was well known for his animal drawings, and this is one of three books he did for The Studio series, the others being on how to draw dogs and horses.
Insects are so important in nature. While humans have tried to contain them, bees (Figs. 7 & 8) are still wild animals!
Graham Sutherland produced a suite of works on bees and bee keeping, showing just that. Graham Sutherland (1903 – 1980) studied at Goldsmith’s School of Art where he became a highly skilled etcher. The Bees Suite of aquatints was produced between October 1976 and May 1977.
Sutherland also produced a suite of aquatints to illustrate Apollinaire Le Bestiaire ou Cortege D’Orphee, (Fig. 9 & 10) in 1979 for Marlborough Gallery. Works by Graham Sutherland are on display in our Birds and Beasts exhibition.
Raoul Dufy, La chenille (The Caterpillar)
Apollinaire’s Bestiary also inspired Raoul Dufy (1877-1953). He was born in Normandy and worked to pay for evening classes at the municipal art school. He later won a scholarship to the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he developed his Fauve style of painting. Apollinaire was a seminal figure in the revolutionary art style known as “Surrealism” a term that he coined.
Dufy’s caterpillar nestles amongst leaves and flowers, surrounded by tiny butterflies or moths. It is one of thirty woodcuts illustrating short poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, first published in 1911.
Adam Fuss, From the series My Ghost
From the caterpillar emerges the moth and butterfly! British photographer Adam Fuss (b. 1961) uses a range of historical and contemporary photographic techniques, including camera-less photography, pinhole photography, photograms and daguerreotypes, to create ephemeral, evocative images, such as these butterflies.
David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate
Bare trees define the landscape at this time of year, as David Hockney depicts, but will soon be cloaked in spring greenery.
This is one of a series of works Hockney (b. 1937) produced over several years, charting the changing seasons in and around Woldgate Woods, East Yorkshire. It was an area he visited regularly and near to where his mother lived. He experimented with new methods and techniques to capture the light and colour of the landscape and nature of the area, as in this print done in situ on an iPad.
Heather and Robin Tanner, Woodland Plants.
Plants are appearing on the woodland floor, giving insects and birds more to feed on. Robin Tanner (19041-1988) was a contemporary of Graham Sutherland at Goldsmith’s School of Art likewise becoming a highly skilled etcher. He spent much of his working life as a teacher, becoming H.M. Inspector of Schools in primary schools from 1935 to 1964. Tanner returned to printmaking after he retired, and produced several books with his wife, Heather.
Robin Tanner, Biting notes for Wren and Primroses
The wren in Wren and Primroses was drawn from a bird that regularly visited the Tanners’ bedroom. Tanner’s notes record the preparation of the etching plate for the print. ‘Biting’ is the process whereby marks are incised into the plate.
Alyson MacNeill, Benedicite Omnia Opera
This image by Alyson MacNeill is from a limited edition book produced by the Old Stile Press, who describe the binding as ‘… sand-coloured cloth spine, titled in gilt, and Canson Ingres paper covered boards printed in red with a design by the artist’. MacNeill studied illustration and printmaking at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, and MA in design at Glasgow School of Art studying MA in design.
Sarah Gillespie, Slapton Ley Series XI
And life continues in rivers, lakes and ponds, and on the beach.
This image is from a series Sarah Gillespie made in 2007 at Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve in Devon. She beautifully describes sketching there in 2020 in a piece she wrote for the Guardian in Sarah Gillespie studied at Oxford University (Pembroke College) Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, and specialises in mezzotint print-making (as the piece in exhibition).
Susan Derges, Spawn
Spring is the time to see the start of new life as frog, newt and toads breed and spawn appears in ponds and rivers.
Susan Derges, like Adam Fuss, uses old and new processes and techniques and camera-less photography to create her elemental responses to water and nature. Her inspiration and working materials are the rivers and shorelines of South Devon, in particular the River Taw on Dartmoor to capture the continuous movement of water by immersing photographic paper directly into the water. Often creating work at night, she works with the light of the moon and a hand-held torch to expose images directly onto light sensitive paper.
Gertrude Hermes, The Prawn
This illustration of rock pool creatures is by Gertrude Hermes (1901 – 1983). Born in Kent to German parents, she attended Beckenham School of Art then at Leon Underwood’s Brook Green School of Painting and Sculpture (1922-25) where she began by studying wood engraving then took up sculpture. Hermes was well known for her illustrations and was a member of the Royal Academy, the Society of Wood Engravers, and Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (1949). From 1945, Hermes taught at Central School of Art and Design, St Martins School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. She was awarded OBE in 1981.
Find out more about Pallant House Gallery Library and Archives.