Covey of Grouse
Medium: Limited Edition Print
Size without frame: 11x14 in
Britains’s foremost wildlife artist. Although occasionally painting in oil, it is for his watercolours that he is now most highly regarded. Son of the miniaturist Robert Thorborn ARSA. Educated at Dalkeith and Edinburgh before studying at the newly founded St Johns Wood School of Art in London whose principal at the time was the animal painter Calderon. Thorburn remained in London for a number of years, becoming an extremely popular illustrator and painter of birds. Married the daughter of C E Mudie, the proprietor of Mudie’s Libraries. Friendly with other naturalist artists with whom he went on extended sketching trips, among them George Lodge and Joseph Wolf, whose influence on Thorburn’s development was strong. His first important illustrations were for Swaysland’s Familiar Wild Birds, 4 volumes, 1883-1888. Then commissioned by Lord Lilford to complete the illustrations for his major work Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands. This resulted in over 250 plates in the seven volumes. His own publications included the four volume British Birds (1915), the two volume British Mammals (1900), The Naturalist’s Sketchbook and Game Birds and Wildfowl.
Thorburn was the first of the great wildlife painters whose works were reproduced photographically, marking an important change from the tradition of Audobon and Gould. More prints have been produced of his work than of any other wildlife artist. His compositions are minutely detailed and remarkable accurate.
He numbers among some of the greatest Scottish artists since the foundation of the Royal Scottish Academy never to have been honoured by the academic establishment. There is now a gallery devoted to his memory and work in Devon, while his work also hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland, the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Woburn.