The Drinking Well


The Drinking Well

1880 United Kingdom

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John Alexander Harington Bird
1846 - 1936
The Drinking Well
Oil on canvas, signed lower right
Image size: 16 x 24 ½ inches (40.5 x 62.5 cm)
Hand made Orientalist gilt frame
Harington Bird was a painter of animals, often in watercolour, and an illustrator of books and magazines. Born on 23rd May 1846, he was destined for the Army but took up painting instead. He studied at The Royal Academy Schools and in 1870, aged 24, exhibited his first picture there. Between 1871 and 1873 he worked as an illustrator for a publication entitled, ‘Dark Blue’. A second Royal Academy exhibit, ‘On Sufferance’, followed in 1874 before Bird set off for Montreal, Canada, where he became an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy, but in 1885, after a ten year absence, he returned to England.

Once back, Bird resumed his Academy career with ‘A Roused Bull’ 1886. He continued to illustrate, contributing to ‘Racing and Coaching’ by AEJ Walker (1897), as well as doing the book jackets of Nat Gould’s racing novels. He seems also to have been engaged in commissions, painting prominent English racehorses of the time. Around the turn of the century, Bird started to concentrate on the Arab horse, and probably visited North Africa to study this noble animal in its natural environment. On the whole, Bird painted the Arabian horse in watercolour and achieved remarkable effects in this medium, capturing in particular the sheen of the horses’ coats and the dust of the desert.

Bird’s meticulous attention to equine anatomy and skill as an artist make him the leading horse painter of the Orientalist movement. His work is to be found in many prominent collections, including The Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace.

This painting is a rare oil, as he mainly painted in watercolour. The horses are depicted in profile, with the classical grace of a horse on the Parthenon frieze or a Stubbs. The pose conveys their elegant configuration, fine musculature and glossy coats. The desert setting is painted more broadly, as a strong backdrop in beautiful tones of blue with flecks of gold on the sunlit sky, so as not to detract from the visual impact of the powerful horses. The coats of the three horses draw the viewer in to these magnificent animals. Two of the main reasons western artists travelled to the Middle East was for the strong light and the brilliant colours, both of which Bird uses to full effect in this scene.
Height 16.00 inch (40.64 cm)
Width 24.50 inch (62.23 cm)
oil on canvas
Signed lower right
Darnley Fine Art

Darnley Fine Art
18 Milner Street

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