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Monkeys, Art Gorilla, Edmund Caldwell, Antique Watercolor, 1896


Edmund Caldwell (1851-1930)
Life-Study of a Young Female Gorilla
British: c. 1896
Signed and inscribed upper left
Watercolor on illustration board
18 x 14.25 inches
26 x 22.25 inches in custom guilloche gold-leaf frame

Highly detailed and naturalistic watercolor painting of a young female gorilla walking across an outdoor enclosure at the London Zoo with the poignant inscription, “Rec’d March 6, 1896. died Aug. 16, 1896.” Caldwell was an animal artist who worked from life, and this is apparently a finished work made from previous sketches. The composition includes autumn leaves in the spare background and a puddle with the distorted partial reflection of the gorilla in the foreground, perhaps intended as symbols of the brevity of the animal’s life.

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Edmund Caldwell was a prominent British animal painter, born in Canterbury. He studied art under Sydney Cooper and won a scholarship to a London art school. He spent the rest of his career in London, first exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1880. He also exhibited at Suffolk Street and at the New Water-Colour Society. Caldwell contributed illustrations to a number of books on wildlife such as H.A. Bryden’s Animals of Africa (1909) as well as hunting books such as W.E. Ogilvie’s The Gun at Home and Abroad (1912). He is probably best known today for his illustrations for the classic children’s novel Jock of the Bushveld (1907) by the South African statesman and author Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick, who brought the artist from London to South Africa to make on site drawings. This popular book is still in print. The William Fehr Collection at the Castle of Good Hope museum in Cape Town, South Africa, has numerous watercolor paintings by Caldwell.

Full inscription: “Life-study of a young female gorilla Rec’d March 6 1896. Died Aug 16 1896. In the London Zoo/ E. Caldwell.”


“An exhibition of South African children’s books.” National Library of South Africa. 22 September 2004. (15 June 2006).

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 2, p. 258.

“Edmund Caldwell: Original Etching for Neumann’s Elephant Hunting In East Equatorial Africa.” Trophy Room Books. ( (cached page accessed 15 June 2006).

“Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick.” Barberton Museum Historical Personalities. 2002. (15 June 2006).