BIRDS AND THE BEES: COLOUR IN VICTORIAN NATURE

With Madeline Hewitson, Research Assistant

Following John Ruskin’s dictum to ‘go to nature in all singleness of heart… rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing’, many Victorian artists were drawn outdoors to revel in the offerings of the natural world.

Against the backdrop of Charles Darwin’s defining publication On the Origin of Species (1859), the plumage of a bird, the iridescent shimmer of a fish scale and the delicate hue of butterfly wings took on a new, exciting significance for artists.

Ruskin is often credited with encouraging these artists to 'go to nature', but the artistic relationships were actually rather more complicated than they might appear.

Page of watercolours by Henry Stacy Marks of colourful birds, including a parrot in bright red

Henry Stacy Marks's colourful 'Studies of a white-crested laughing thrush, a cock of the rock and a yellow macaw' watercolour, 1877


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