Artwork by James Fenwick Lansdowne,  Three Bird Studies

James F. Lansdowne
Three Bird Studies

3 colour lithographs
each signed and dated 1967-8 within the plate; issued by the McMichael Conservation Collection of Art; each unframed

17.5 x 14.5 ins ( 44.5 x 36.8 cms ) ( each sheet )

Auction Estimate: $200.00$100.00 - $200.00

Price Realized $207.00
Sale date: August 11th 2020

Private Collection, Toronto

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James Fenwick Lansdowne
(August 8, 1937 - July 26, 2008) OC, OBC

Born in Hong Kong of English parents, his father was an engineer employed by Jardine-Matheson, a British trading company. When the artist was only eleven he was stricken with polio. War in China reached their area finally and they were evacuated to Victoria, BC in 1940. His father returned to his job in Hong Kong but was taken prisoner (for four years) by the Japanese. In Victoria his mother worked very hard to provide proper care for her convalescing son. When he was seven his mother, an accomplished artist in her own right, sat by his bed and painted pictures for him. He soon began to experiment on his own. He watched birds from his bedroom window and by the time he was 14 he had become so interested in birds he began sketching them. He attended Victoria High School and for three summers worked a lab assistant at the British Columbia Museum where he studied the anatomy of birds. Colour slides of his illustrations were seen one day by the director of the Canadian Audubon Society, John Livingston, who was so impressed with the young man’s work that he arranged a showing of his paintings in Toronto, at the Royal Ontario Museum in connection with International Museums Week, 1956. At that time, T.M. Shortt (one of Canada’s top wildlife illustrators) as well as John Livingston, rated Lansdowne’s work as brilliant. Up to this time only one other showing of his paintings had been seen by the public – at the BC. Provincial Library in 1950.

His first non-Canadian exhibition took place in New York City at the headquarters of the National Audubon Society where he was introduced by the president of the society John H. Baker. His paintings were shown at the Canadian National Exhibition by the Star Weekly Birds of Canada and reproductions of them were made available to the public by this publishing company. His 1960 appearance at the Royal Ontario Museum on the occasion of an exhibit of his work and a reception for him was attended by about 700 persons. Paul Duval in describing the paintings for the Telegram noted, “Like all of his paintings, they are in the exact, transparent watercolour technique. He uses this traditional method in a crisp, realistic style. His unerring instinct for design is apparent… He will almost certainly become the world’s foremost bird painter of his time.”

Shortly afterwards, Lansdowne went to England where he sketched birds, in their natural habitats in preparation for more detailed work of them. His English studies dealt with the small birds rather than the game birds depicted by the majority of English bird artists. It was then that arrangements were made for a showing of his Birds of Britain and Canada at the Tyron Gallery, London. In the fall of 1960 he exhibited at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and in the spring of 1961, his Tyron exhibition took place and was met with the greatest enthusiasm. Critics ranked him among the world’s leading painters of birds. Through Bud Feheley of TDF Advertising Artists arrangements were made for the publishing of Lansdowne’s paintings in a series of six books by McClelland & Stewart. Lansdowne is represented in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum; Beaverbrook Art Gallery; Audubon House, New York; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and several others.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979