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The son of a miniaturist painter for Queen Victoria, Archibald Thorburn began sketching at an early age and received most of his training from his father, only briefly attending St. John's Wood School of Art. After the death of his father, Thorburn moved to London in 1885 and studied with Joseph Wolf. In 1880, Thornburn began to exhibit at the Royal Academy and continued to do so for the next twenty years. The artist specifically became known for his illustrations of birds for publications such as W.F. Swaysland's Familiar Wild Birds and Lord Lilford's multi-volume survey Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands. He continually traveled around Great Britain, walking the moors of Scotland as well as the lands by his home in England, in order to study birds and animals in their natural habitats. He eventually settled at Hascombe and continued to work, sketching and painting birds for the rest of his life.
Thorburn is known as the greatest ornithological artist of Great Britain. As one of the first artists to sketch animals in the field, the artist made a significant impact on wildlife art. Most of his contemporaries were studying forms from taxidermy and zoos, so Thorburn's work seemed especially natural and life-like for the time. He preferred watercolors, believing the medium was more suited to birds and their plumage than oils, and his style changed very little throughout his career.
He was born on May 31, 1860 at Lasswade, Scotland, and died October 9, 1935 at Hascombe, England.
Information courtesy of Adam Duncan Harris, Ph.D., Curator of Art, National Museum of Wildlife Art.