Joseph Wolf is widely considered the most accomplished bird artist working in London during the mid 19th century. When he arrived in England in 1848, he was already an established wildlife painter in Western Europe. Born in Germany, Wolf began his career as a lithographer’s apprentice. At age 19, he was commissioned by Eduard Rüppell at the Frankfurt Museum to illustrate his book on African birds. This led to commissions from the Darmstadt Museum and the prominent ornithologist Hermann Schlegel, for Traité de Fauconnerie and a work on birds of Japan. At this point, Wolf who was only 20 years old, moved to Leiden and sharpened his skills at the art school there. When he came to England, he began working in the natural history department of the British Museum, illustrating George Robert Gray’s Genera of Birds. He also attracted the interest of the animal painter Sir Edward Landseer, who arranged for Wolf to exhibit at the Royal Academy. He was the first significant bird artist to publish illustrations in scientific journals, dozens of which appeared in the Proceedings and Transactions of the Zoological Society of London and The Ibis, the journal of the British Ornithologists’ Union. Other important bird books to which he contributed were John Gould’s The Birds of Asia (1850-1883) and The Birds of Great Britain (1862-73). He also illustrated important travel books by David Livingstone, Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace. Perhaps Wolf’s crowning achievements were the plates for Daniel Giraud Elliott’s 1873 monographs on the Phasianeidae (pheasants) and Paradiseida (birds of paradise). Wolf’s favorite subjects were birds of prey. His explorations of how the subtle colorations of their plumage related to their environment influenced other artists. His long and successful career as a natural history painter also encouraged others to enter that field.
Joseph Smit was a Dutch lithographer of natural history subjects. His first commission was by the ornithologist Hermann Schlegel at the Leiden Museum. He is perhaps best known for his lithographs after Joseph Wolf, including Philip Sclater’s Zoological Sketches (1861-67) and Daniel Giraud Elliott’s 1873 monographs on the Phasianeidae (pheasants) and Paradiseida (birds of paradise). He also contributed plates to the Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum (1874-1898) and Lord Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands.
Condition: Lithographs generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear. Some with light cockling as mounted to original title card. Title card with the usual overall toning and wear, some with scattered marginal staining, short tears, and/or bending of corners, all to be matted out.
“About the Artists and Editors.” New Zealand Antique Prints and Rare Books. http://www.newzealandantiqueprints.co.nz/artists/aboutartists.html (11 May 2007).
Anker, Jean. Bird Books and Bird Art. 1938. Reprint ed. New York: Martino, 1990. 539.
“Joseph Smit.” Wikipedia. 8 August 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smit (11 May 2007).
Nissen, Claus. Die Illustrierten Vogelbucher: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart:1976. 1012.
Pasquier, Roger F. and John Farrand, Jr. Masterpieces of Bird Art: 700 Years of Ornithological Illustration. New York: Abbeville Press, 1991. pp. 45, 147, 152-53, 158, 164-172.
Sitwell, Sacheverell. Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990. p.115.
Wood, Casey A. (ed.) An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology Based Chiefly on the Titles in the Blacker Library of Zoology, the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology, the Bibliotheca Osleriana, and Other Libraries of McGill University, Montreal. London: Humphry Milford, Oxford University Press, 1931. p.633.