Birds have been part of our collective imagination since the dawn of human civilization as prehistoric cave paintings, hieroglyphics, and carvings can attest. Throughout history, from ancient mythologies and religions, to art, literature and popular culture, we have been fascinated by birds and for good reasons, they can fly! The fact that birds are also the only living descendants of dinosaurs makes them even more awesome. A new illustrated book by PHAIDON, “BIRD: Exploring the Winged World”, celebrates their enduring appeal with over 300 spectacular images that reveal how artists, illustrators, scientists and photographers have captured birds’ likeness, character and symbolism from the ancient world to the present.
Conceived as a survey of the avian kingdom, the 352-page book brings together a diverse range of work by over 90 artists, 50 photographers, 15 illustrators and 10 fashion designers, selected in consultation with an international panel of artists, art historians, ornithologists, conservationists and photographers – including British ornithologist, artist and author Katrina van Grouw who also wrote the book’s introduction. From richly painted medieval manuscripts and 10th century Chinese naturalistic paintings, Renaissance nature studies and 19th century engravings, to contemporary art installations and high-speed photography, a diverse range of pictorial references comprise a kaleidoscopic compendium of the timeless allure that have enjoyed across time, cultures and geography.
As expected for such an ambitious endeavour, the book covers a wide spectrum of subjects such as birds as political and geographical symbols, birds in fashion, jewellery and popular culture, taxidermy, the depiction of birds by indigenous cultures, and bird importation during the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age. As encyclopaedia-like as it may sounds, the book is neither pedantic nor tedious, courtesy of the sumptuous large-format images, engaging stories (like those behind the Twitter bird logo, the Big Bird character and Warner Bros’ Tweety Bird), and assorted trivia – did you know that Alfred Hitchcock had to use real birds in his seminal horror film “The Birds” after spending more than $200,000 to make mechanical birds that failed to look life-like?
Also featuring a reference section with information on bird identification, spotting and classification, a glossary, an illustrated timeline and select biographies, “BIRD: Exploring the Winged World” is a must have for bird-lovers and ornithologists but it’s also an inspiration-packed monograph for anyone who has been ever been enchanted by their melodic song, fanciful plumage or aerial acrobatics.