various views of the stuffed bird
painting almost finished
side view of the bird, later flipped around for the painting
early stage of the painting
I made some detailed pencil studies of the stuffed animals in the Natural History Museum in Vienna (a wonderful museum in full on 19th century style). Somehow the birds attracted me, maybe because there is such a range or birds really - there must be almost one thousand different birds in the museum. I picked the paradise vogel, because it is really a most remarkable bird. I knew about the bird because I read to my children the Dr. Suess book about the vain bird who wants to have the longest, most pretty tail. She gets one, but then she can no longer fly. Well.... Dr. Suess apparently knew something about birds, because when you see the range of paradise birds out there, the length, elaboration, and raw ornamental quality of their feathers it makes you pause to think. As in... aren't birds meant to fly, and with this amount of superfluous feathering certainly not meant for getting into the air, is it anymore possible to fly? Isn't the point of the bird to fly? And that brought my thoughts to another point.... does everything really have to have a functional purpose? Can't a bird have elaborate feathers just to be beautiful? Doesn't beauty have a value, or does everything always come down to function, utility, survival? And then, what if we suppose beauty has a value, in and of itself, with no relation to function, just in itself, alone - beauty is beautiful because it is beautiful (not because it serves some other biological function). Well that is how I think about the paradise vogel! And she/he should be a standard to which we could aspire, no?
The painting mixes my interest in early renaissance paintings, specifically the way they depict a landscape, which is hardly visually accurate, but a kind of mixture between observation and idealization. My pretty paradise vogel is perched on a collection of real stones I've collected and for some reason unknown to me keep holding my interest. The painting technique is more old fashioned, done with thin layers of paint built up slowly (I am beginning to really like this technique!)
The pictures show a pencil sketch of the stuffed paradise vogel drawn in the museum, and an early stage, and a near finished stage of the painting. The finished painting will be posted soon.