Darren MacPherson often depicts birds in his vibrant abstract paintings. In the work Kabutara (2019) MacPherson uses confident brush strokes and juxtaposing colours to make the figure of the bird stand out against the background. The patterned body of the bird is also in contrast with the block colour of the background, giving the image a street art style that conveys a sense of immediacy.
Fran Giffard is fascinated by both exotic and common place birds. Painting directly onto her personal diary, her collection appears almost like a scientific record, while her treatment of colour, level of detail and beautifully balanced compositions transform these birds into delightful artworks. The delicate treatment of the birds and her personal markings make these paintings a joy to look at and would make for a wonderful first purchase or addition to an existing collection.
Birds have been depicted in prehistoric caves in Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Europe. One of the earliest European examples was found in the Lascaux Caves in south-west France, called the Bird-headed Man and Bird on a Stick.
In Ancient Egypt birds were often depicted on the walls of tombs. This may have been to protect the dead, as Ibis, a common Egyptian bird, were used to rid homes of vermin, or because of the strong religious associations. Thoth for example is an ancient Egyptian deity who was often depicted with the head of an Ibis.
The Romans were also fond of birds and kept them as household pets or painted them to adorn their homes. They had a special relationship with birds through the practice of Augury, whereby an individual would observe the flight of birds to interpret omens.
In Christianity birds are seen as a symbol of God’s presence. The dove signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit, the eagle signifies the caring mother, and the sparrow shows that God cares for even the most insignificant things. These birds were often used as decoration for bibles or song books.
Birds became popular still life subjects or were depicted as trophies, symbolising a good hunt. Explorers also painted birds to record discoveries of exotic species. Since then birds have been depicted by artists, such as Pablo Picasso, as a subject of experimentation and abstraction.