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Bird, Art, Sandstrom, Hornbills & Kingfishers, Watercolors, 1970s

George F. Sandström (1925-2006)
Hornbills and Kingfishers
[Natural History Bird Studies]

American: c. 1970-1982
Watercolor on illustration board
Each signed “Sandström” and titled in pencil
14 x 9.75 inches, artist’s pencil border, average approximate
20 x 12 inches overall, average approximate
Provenance: Estate of John E. duPont
$375 to $1,500 each

Collection of ten ornithological paintings of hornbills and kingfishers by the natural history artist George F. Sandström. The paintings were owned by the naturalist and author John Eleuthère duPont who collaborated extensively with Sandström. Most of the birds are tropical — from the Philippines, Indonesia and New Guinea. One of the watercolors illustrates three Belted Kingfishers — one of only three kingfisher species found in North America north of Mexico. These ten highly detailed, realistic renderings depict birds perched on fragments of a branch or log. Some illustrate both male and female examples of a species and others show adult and juvenile birds. The works are titled by the artist in pencil in the lower margin along with the five- or six-digit museum collection numbers of specimens upon which Sandström based the paintings. It is possible that these specimen numbers relate to ones in the Delaware Museum of Natural History. This museum was founded by duPont and he was instrumental in building its ornithological collection, including one of the finest collections of Philippine bird specimens in the world.

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George F. Sandström was a natural history artist who illustrated over 40 books with his paintings birds, animals, flowers, minerals and plants over a long career. Born in Argentina, he earned a masters degree in economics there. In 1950, he immigrated to the United States and spent several years trying to launch an acting career and another five as a banker in Philadelphia before embarking on a career as a natural history artist in 1962. Although he was a self-taught artist, he quickly found success with Seashells of the World (1962), a best-seller that was translated into seven languages and sold millions of copies over the next 25 years. During the 1970s and 1980s, Sandström collaborated with John E. duPont, naturalist, founder and chairman of the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, illustrating duPont’s books Philippine Birds (1971), South Pacific Birds (1976) and Woodpeckers of the World (1982). His painting of an ivory-billed woodpecker was published in Newsweek in 1986. He also illustrated regularly for the New York Times, Ranger Rick magazine, and other periodicals. Sandström painted from his own field sketches and photos as well as borrowing stuffed specimens from museums. His paintings have been exhibited at museums and galleries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Washington, DC.

Provenance: Estate of John E. duPont (1938-2010), founder of the Delaware Museum of Natural History. DuPont was an ornithologist who discovered some two dozen species and authored several books on birds.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, handling, and wear. Very minor toning in far outer edges. Drafting tape markers beyond image on kingfisher paintings, as issued, to line up for publication, can be matted out when framed. Our research has not revealed, however, if the illustrations were published.


Downey, Sally A. “George F. Sandström, 81, Artist and illustrator.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 24 June 2006. Online at Alt.obituaries:!topic/alt.obituaries/ZWkg1nsJqxY (25 March 2014).

duPont, John Eleuthère. Philippine Birds. Greenville, DE: Delaware Museum of Natural History, 1971.

Gress, Karen K. “Artist Draws His Subjects From Nature.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 18 January 1987. (25 March 2014).

“John Eleuthere du Pont.” Delaware County Daily Times. 12 December 2010. Online at Remembering (12 January 2012).

Wilson, Wendell E. “George F. Sandström.” The Mineralogical Record Museum of Art. 2014. (25 March 2014).

Additional information


20th Century