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Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)
Almost seventy years after his death, Archibald Thorburn's depictions of British birdlife are as popular today as they were with previous generations of sportsmen and birdlovers. Whilst many artists have emulated him, few have captured so realistically the glint in an eye or the sheen on a feather of the birds he studied so intently. Archibald Thorburn was born at Viewfield House, Lasswade, near Edinburgh, the fifth son of Robert Thorburn, a miniaturist who numbered Queen Victoria amongst his patrons. From an early age, the younger Thorburn took a delight in drawing, filling numerous sketchbooks with studies of flora and fauna. Such direct observation from nature was to form the foundation of his art. Thorburn was one of the first British wildlife artists to go into the field and take sketches from life whilst his contemporaries were sketching birds from examples which had suffered at the hands of taxidermists.
Although Thorburn moved to London in 1885, he made regular sketching tours of the British Isles, seeking inspiration for his work. Although Thorburn occasionally worked in oil he found watercolour the most expressive medium with which to capture his subject's likeness.