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Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)
Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)

Blackcock displaying at the Lek

Details
Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)
Blackcock displaying at the Lek
signed and dated 'Archibald Thorburn 1901' (lower right)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour, heightened with gum arabic on paper
18 ¾ x 31 in. (47.6 x 78.8 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 22 November 1995, lot 207.
with Richard Green, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 5 June 1998, lot 94, where acquired by the present owner.

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Brandon Lindberg
Brandon Lindberg

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Lot Essay

Thorburn was the best-known ornithological artist of his time. The son of a portrait miniaturist, his earliest work was illustrating W. F. Swaysland's Familiar Wild Birds, soon followed by his plates for Lord Lilford’s extraordinarily wide-ranging publication Coloured figures of the Birds of the British Islands, published in seven volumes between 1885 and 1898. Much influenced by Joseph Wolf, and his insistence on studying birds from life, Thorburn spent most of his time sketching in the field, and his large scale watercolours have a remarkable immediacy and sense of movement as a result of this. He made extensive sketching tours around the British countryside, and took particular pleasure in returning to Gaick, Inverness-shire, where in 1889 he saw his first ptarmigan and red deer.
Blackgame were a favourite subject for him as he loved depicting the rich depth of colour of their feathers. The lek, a courting ritual or fight similar to the rut for deer, gave him the perfect opportunity to portray the open plumage of two male birds in great detail.
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