Bird Artists

Before I start talking about Bird Artists I would like to welcome two new subscribers who have joined us today. One makes jewellery and we will see her work along the way. The other has a passion for interior design so she will be my consultant when we tackle this topic. In the meantime, back to Birds.

In Australia the study and painting of birds was lead by two Englishmen, the relatively unknown John Cotton and the very well known John Gould.

John Cotton (1801-1849) was a British poet, ornithological writer and artist, who became an early pastoral settler in Victoria, Australia. Here is a letter written and illustrated by Cotton. I think this is a wonderful image as it demonstrates the ornithologist's dedication to minute detail. I want to quote a little about John Cotton from the Museum of Victoria to give you an insight into the world of Bird Artists. The family soon settled at 'Doogallook' on the Goulburn River, the first of several stations leased by Cotton. He quickly began to draw, paint and describe the birds around him. He shot birds for close observation - and even tasted them! He says the bronze-winged pigeon Peristera chalcoptera [Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera] made 'excellent eating'. He also preserved bird skins, and hoped to supplement his income by selling them in London.(Ref:

As you would know by now, I love to connect people together as I believe in the notion of six degrees of separation. John Cotton's great-granddaughter was Ethel Marian (Maie) Sumner Ryan who became Baroness Casey wife of one of our most distinguished statesmen Lord Casey. Maie was a most incredible women and an artist amongst her many other talents. I will dedicate a blog to her soon but suffice to say today that she compiled all of John Cotton's works together and was largely responsible for the publication of his Birds of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales 1843-1849. Sadly there are few images to be found online.

Many of us were brought up on the illustrations of John Gould (1804-1881) who was also an English ornithologist and bird artist. It is remarkable that he made such an impact as he only lived in Australia for two years. Some of us were even members of the Gould League, an organisation established in 1909 to promote environmental education. Here is one of Gould’s illustrations of The Australian Magpie. Come on, indulge me a little - some of you know how much I love my footy team!! And the boys are as beautiful as these birds.
Okay so I'll show you John Gould's Hawks. Apologies to my overseas subscribers as I get all this petty rivalry out of the way. We know magpies are the most glorious of creatures. And their morning song is wonderful. But here is Gould's painting of Brown Hawks.
And his Wedge-tailed Eagle
His Crow.
And his Swan, but an English swan not an Australian one from Gould's book on Birds of Great Britain. White swans were introduced into Australia in 1896 by British colonists after the death of John Gould.
Did you know that John Gould's wife Elizabeth Gould (nee Coxen) was also an illustrator and she produced many of his plates, as did Edward Lear of The Owl and the Pussy Cat fame. This is Elizabeth Gould's painting of the bird that was named after her- Mrs Goulds Sunbird* (found in Asia).
And this is Edward Lear's painting of the parrot Ara macao.
In terms of contemporary Australian artists I really like the work of Melbourne artist Elizabeth Cogley. Her paintings are exquisite. First, our little mates, the Kookaburras. Alongside magpies they are my favourite birds and love them coming into the garden to be fed. I must say their manners are much better than the magpies. Once I came into my kitchen to have a magpie standing by the fridge door! I had two dogs at the time who took no notice of the magpie- agreeing it was time he was fed!
And here is Cogley’s the Australian King Parrots.
The Hero Image is another of Elizabeth Cogley's paintings, Sunny Days in the Dandenongs – Crimson Rosellas

If you want to learn how to draw birds this is an excellent site to use.

We are going to continue with bird artists for at least one more day as I need to introduce you to the very early and famous American artist John James Audubon and his remarkable illustrations of birds and also to an English woman, Lady Elizabeth Symonds Gwillim who painted (over 200 years ago) watercolours of Indian birds.

INTRODUCING ARTSY Artsy is an online site dedicated to making all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. I highly recommend you visit the site when you have time to browse around. From time to time I will be referring you to interesting content on this site.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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