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Bird, Art, Owls, Keulemans, Pair Framed Antique Watercolors, c. 1870-1910


John Gerrard Keulemans (1842-1912)
Pair of Natural History Studies of Owls
England: c. 1870-1910
Sepia watercolors, highlighted in white
Signed lower right: JGKeulemans
14.75 x 12 inches, overall, each
$7,800, the pair

Pair of detailed watercolor studies of owls by one of the pre-eminent European bird artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both appear to belong to the genus Tyto, which includes a variety of species around the world commonly known as barn owls, grass owls, or masked owls. The birds are shown against delicately rendered impressionistic backgrounds. One owl is perched on a branch, the other on a stone ledge. They are framed in rustic style, painted, distressed wood frames with dark fillets.

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John Gerrard Keulemans was the most sought-after bird artist in Europe from roughly 1870 to 1910, esteemed for his high standard of scientific accuracy. Working largely from bird specimens, he had a special talent for creating drawings that were both anatomically correct and aesthetically striking. A skilled lithographer as well, he was unusual among natural history artists in that he generally transferred his own drawings to prints. In his early twenties, the Dutch-born Keulemans was mentored by Dr. Herman Schlegel, a renowned zoologist and director of the natural history museum in Leiden, who brought him on an ornithological expedition to Africa and then hired him to the museum staff and encouraged his artistic development. Soon Keulemans attracted his own commissions for natural history illustrations, mainly in England, a center for study of the zoological specimens arriving from far-flung expeditions. In 1869, he received a major assignment from Richard Bowdler Sharpe of the Zoological Society of London to produce 120 lithographs for his Monograph of the Alcedinidae, or Family of Kingfishers and thereafter pursued his artistic career in Britain, illustrating monographs and scientific journal articles by leading ornithologists. He was one of several well-known artists who contributed to Lord Thomas Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands (1885-1897), a seven-volume work contained 421 plates, representing late 19th-century chromolithography at its best. Keulemans illustrated many volumes of the British Museum’s Catalogue of Birds (1874-1898). He also illustrated St. George Jackson Mivart’s A Monograph of the Lories, or Brush-tongued Parrots, composing the Family Loriidae, published in 1896.


Fontana, Elizabeth, ed. “John Gerrard Keulemans.” Beautiful Birds: Masterpieces from the Hill Ornithology Collection, Cornell University Library. June 1999. (3 June 2002).

“Tyto.” Wikipedia. 25 February 2021. (30 April 2021).

Additional information


19th C. Birds, 19th Century, 20th Century