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Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)

Biography of the painter and illustrator Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)

Archibald Thorburn was born in Edinburgh, the son of Robert Thorburn, a distinguished miniature painter.

Thorburn began sketching outdoors as a child. Even in childhood, he demonstrated the direct observation of nature on which his whole oeuvre was founded and also a single minded vocation to draw wildlife.

In the early 1880s, Thorburn produced some sophisticated drawings for some of the plates for Lord Lilford's Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles. After his father's death in 1885, Thorburn moved to Belsize Park, London, where he met one Joseph Wolf (1820-1899), who was a German born animal and bird painter. Wolf had come to London in 1848 and lived at nearby Primrose Hill, which was conveniently near to Regents Park Zoo. Wolf's work was widely admired, including by Charles Darwin and the famous art critic William Rossetti.

Wolf had a huge influence on Thorburn, who became his pupil along with GE Lodge (1860-1854) and Charles Whymper (1853-1941). In 1902, Thorburn moved to Hascombe in Surrey where he bought a small estate. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, he exhibited both oils and watercolours at the Royal Academy and established a good relationship with the London dealer AC Baird Carter, through whom commission work increased steadily.

In the 1890s, Thorburn who shot regularly, gave-up the sport after witnessing the distress of a wounded hare. He did, however, continue to benefit from his sporting patrons, especially during the developments of the great shooting estates. Amongst his wealthy and influential patrons were George V, Edward VII, Lord Sefton and Lorn Burnham.

Thorburn's output was admired by all. He worked long hours 'rising early after a cold bath and bowl of porridge and to work'. A small watercolour would take a day, a large landscape a week. After 1900, he rarely painted in oils, deeming watercolour a better medium to render the softness and markings in feathers.

It is considered that Thorburn's best work was executed between 1895 and 1930. (After that year he underwent an operation for cancer and his work suffered as his hand increasingly lost is sureness).

Lord Ripon wrote of Thorburn in 1911 'To him the crow of the grouse as he speeds along the purple heather, or the gutteral note of the pheasant as he flies across the crimson sky on a winters afternoon, brings with them a joyous exultation....'

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Related Lots

Lot FS28/339

Lot FS28/339: Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Titmouse Studies

Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Titmouse studies - signed and dated 1913 lower right inscribed with Titmouse varieties inscribed Pl.10. top right watercolour heightened with bodycolour 50.5 x 38cm Literature. Archibald Thorburn, British Birds, Longmans, Green & Co, London 1915-16 & 1918, pl.10.

Estimate: £5,000 - £7,000
Realised: £7,200

Lot FS16/274

Lot FS16/274: Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Ptarmigan and An Arctic Hare

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Ptarmigan and an arctic hare signed with initials AT bottom left en grisaille watercolour 7.5 x 15cm.

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500
Realised: £1,300

Lot FS16/273

Lot FS16/273: Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Magpies on A Fence

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Magpies on a fence signed with initials AT bottom left en grisaille watercolour 7.5 x 15cm.

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500
Realised: £1,200

Lot FS16/271

Lot FS16/271: Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Songbirds

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Songbirds two pencil drawings from the sketchbook of the artist largest 9.5 x 10.8cm.

Estimate: £250 - £350
Realised: £250

Lot FS16/270

Lot FS16/270: Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Songbirds

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) Songbirds two pencil drawings from the sketchbook of the artist largest 6.2 x 9cm.

Estimate: £200 - £300
Realised: £220

Lot FS14/451

Lot FS14/451: Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935[ - Snipe Amongst Grasses

Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935[ - Snipe amongst grasses - signed and dated A Thorburn 1910 bottom right watercolour and bodycolour 17 x 125cm.

Estimate: £2,000 - £3,000
Realised: £3,500

Lot FS14/449

Lot FS14/449: Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Study of A Mallard

Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Study of a Mallard - signed and dated A Thorburn Dec 22nd 1911 bottom right watercolour and bodycolour 27.5 x 185cm.

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,800
Realised: £1,600

Lot FS14/452

Lot FS14/452: Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935[ - Study of A Grey Wagtail

Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935[ - Study of a Grey Wagtail - signed and dated A Thorburn 1913 bottom left watercolour heightened with white and bodycolour 18 x 13cm.

Estimate: £800 - £1,200
Realised: £1,400

Lot FS14/448

Lot FS14/448: Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) - Bullfinch on A Branch of Apple Blossom

Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) - Bullfinch on a branch of apple blossom signed and dated A Thorburn 1909 bottom left watercolour and bodycolour 21.5 x 165cm.

Estimate: £800 - £1,200
Realised: £3,300

Lot FS14/453

Lot FS14/453: Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Study of A Terrier Dog

Archibald Thorburn [1860-1935] - Study of a terrier dog - signed and dated A Thorburn 1912 bottom left watercolour and bodycolour 25 x 18cm.

Estimate: £600 - £800
Realised: £1,300

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