Art And Science: Gould’s Birds

My absolute favorite scientific illustrator of all time is John Gould. He lived and worked in the middle 1800’s and was a prolific illustrator of birds and known ornithologist. He was English and worked both on the species native to the British Isles and on exotic species – in particular, his works on birds from  Papua New Guinea and Australia is stunning and was very important for scientists and naturalists of the time. Most excitingly, he worked with Charles Darwin illustrating and cataloging the bird specimens he had collected on his famous journey on the Beagle.  

While his works are incredibly scientifically accurate, they are also stunningly beautiful. More than that, they show a true love for nature and for the subjects he was illustrating. Birds are shown interacting like they normally would in the wild – indicating he had a true interest for the natural history as well as for the physical characteristics of his birds. There is a touch of artistic license in most of his works, depicting the foliage either in muted tones or in black and white to make the bright colors of the bird’s feathers stand our more vividly. To me, that’s what true love for nature looks like.

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