WHO IS YOUR favourite bird artist? I’m never sure about this one. I tend to feel that, since photographic accuracy has become the norm in painting, a degree of artistry has been lost. The pictorial birds I like most are probably the ones in Old Master paintings, which are usually only incidental, yet are always there for a reason, and often have rich emblematic meanings. Many look childishly unrealistic, by our standards. But what about the birds of Jean Jacques Audubon (1785 1851), which nobody could accuse of looking “realistic”? I must confess I find Audubon a bit shop-soiled, his paintings shrunk to the status of commodities by all those gargantuan auction sales. That’s not his fault, though, so what do we see once we’ve brushed away the commercial tinsel? At worst, feathered shapes distorted grotesquely by the constraints of his oblong spaces. At best, a breath from the Garden of Eden: birds as though seen for the first time by human eye, set against the great lakes and plains where buffalos and passenger pigeons still thronged, or (better still) arranged on a flowering spray of the wildwood, the pristine climax forest that we in Britain had mainly grubbed out by the Dark Ages. Those days in America, before the railroads and gold rushes, are still so close, and Audubon can show them to us. There aren’t many modern-day homes that would not be enriched by an Audubon print on the wall – to refresh and to remind.
■ On a quite different tack: a smashing piece from Jon Ashby on page 10 about learning the job of show manager by “shadowing” one (in Jon’s case, Ghalib Al-Nasser) at an actual show. It’s a great idea. Any clubs that are prepared to offer “shadow” training by their show manager, please let us know, so we can spread the word.
■ Club News listings: club officials please note. Dangerous road conditions during the week of Monday, January 28 led to office closures, so as we went to press we hadn’t seen all the post due to have arrived that week. Also, a problem with our corporate email during January 15-29 meant that some emails sent to Laura or Rob did not reach us until the last date. We are very sorry if any time-sensitive Club News items have been inadvertently omitted as a result. If you are in doubt whether a particular item has been received, please check Thank you – and enjoy your week.