The University of Glasgow, which owns a copy of Birds of Great Britain, describes John Gould as "the greatest figure in bird illustration after Audubon. Audubon was the greatest bird artist known to America. Gould was the master of lithography of his time. He was not always directly responsible for the illustrations himself, although he supervised their production closely." It was very obvious that his work was "Gould's pride and joy".
Gould had already published some of the illustrations in Birds of Europe, but Birds of Great Britain represents a development of his aesthetic style, in which he adds illustrations of nests and their young.
Gould published the work himself, producing 750 copies, which remain sought after both as complete volumes, and as individual plates.
The University of Glasgow records that the volumes were issued in London in 25 parts, to make the complete set, between 1863 and 1873, and each set contained 367 coloured lithographs.
Gould undertook an ornithological tour of Scandinavia in 1856. In preparation for the work, he took with him artist Henry Wolf, who drew 57 plates from Gould's preparatory sketches.
Gould's skill was rapidly producing rough sketches from nature (a majority of the sketches were drawn from newly killed specimens) capturing the distinctiveness of each species. Gould then oversaw the process whereby his artists worked his sketches into the finished drawings, which were made into coloured lithographs by engraver William Hart.
The lithographs were hand coloured. In the introduction for the work, Gould states, "every sky with its varied tints, and every feather of each bird, were coloured by hand, and when it is considered that nearly two hundred and eighty thousand illustrations in the present work have been so treated, it will most likely cause some astonishment to those who give the subject a thought”.
His work has gathered much critical acclaim.
Information taken from Wikipedia
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Related Tag: Bird Prints