08/09/2023 General News
Given this county’s extensive rural habitats, wetlands, coasts and marshes, it shouldn’t surprise us that ornithology is a popular pastime in Norfolk, writes Oscar Crocker. After all, you can spot 436 different bird species in the county, according to the world bird database Avibase.
Norfolk has always been something of a magnet for artists, as well, drawn by the clean light, peaceful countryside and creativity-friendly ambience of the county. So perhaps it was inevitable that wildlife art, and in particular ornithological art, should play such an important part.
This kind of art is much in demand, not just because it combines two popular passions, but also because it tends to be decorative and accessible. Our regular Ornithology Sales elicit interest not just locally, but nationally and internationally.
The next such sale is next week – and amongst a wonderful collection of taxidermy, books on natural history and wildlife art are works by three important 20th century artists who made their reputation in Norfolk.
John Cyril Harrison was one of the first artists to specialise in depicting birds in flight. Other artists had largely failed to make their flying birds look alive, Harrison made a special study of the characteristic flight of different species, and as a result his pictures were extremely convincing, especially when he captured the bird flying directly towards the viewer – a particularly difficult one to portray.
Harrison was born in Wiltshire in 1898, but like many wildlife artists, ended up living in Norfolk, although his work also took him to far-flung locations such as South Africa, Portuguese East Africa and Iceland. He was very involved with conservation in the Norfolk Broads, and every year he donated one of his watercolours to Norfolk Naturalists’ Trust for their Christmas cards. He died in 1985
Roland Green was born in Kent in 1890. The son of a taxidermist, he was trained in the skinning, stuffing and setting up of birds, thus learning intimately about their anatomy and plumage. This was the foundations of his reputation as an ornithological artist; he was still a schoolboy when he developed a gift for drawing and painting wildlife.
Green settled in a disused drainage mill at Hickling in Norfolk, where he spent many thousands of hours in the reedbeds. His works capture mush of the wild beauty of the location, as well as the birds themselves. He was particularly skilled at portraying birds in flight.
He was commissioned by Lord Desborough of the Hickling Estate to paint four long friezes at Whiteslea Lodge, depicting the birds of Hickling Broad, which are still there today. Green died in 1972 at the Hickling home where he hade lived for more than half a century.
Born in Essex in 1917, High Brandon-Cox was the son of a well-known naturalist and explorer, Colonel John Brandon-Cox, who was killed during a Zulu uprising in South Africa a few months before Hugh was born. Despite the fact he never knew him, his father remained an important influence on Hugh, who decided to follow in his footsteps as an explorer.
Despite travelling widely in Norway and the Arctic Circle, Brandon-Cox was inspired mainly by the wind-swept expanses of the north Norfolk coast, and wrote books which evoked the timeless quality of the Norfolk countryside. He became renowned for his watercolours of Norfolk country scenes and wildlife, which remain eagerly sought-after by collectors. He died in 2004, aged 86.
Keys Ornithology, Taxidermy, Natural History & Sporting Sale takes place on Wednesday 13th September. Full details at www.keysauctions.co.uk.