Henry Stacy Marks: A Feathered Fascination

The painter, illustrator and sometime Pre-Raphaelite follower Henry Stacy Marks is perhaps best remembered today for his paintings of birds.


The painter, illustrator and sometime Pre-Raphaelite follower Henry Stacy Marks is perhaps best remembered today for his paintings of birds. Born and trained in London, he started exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1853. He experimented with a variety of mediums from ceramics, paintings and illustrations to creating some remarkable stained glass windows. His subject matter was equally as eclectic, including a passion for Shakespeare and the middle-ages. It was in his depictions of animals and in particular birds that he best expressed is talents. He would visit the zoological gardens and make studies of the different species and then incorporate them into his works of art and paintings. Probably his most famous work is the fabulous “A Select Committee” (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) which depicts a gathering of parrots perched in an aviary, as if conducting a meeting. He approached his animals in a very sympathetic and well-observed way, masterfully painting the feathers and details of the plumage. 

Birds have always fascinated man – their ability to fly a symbol of freedom and many species of birds have their own meanings (The crane, often associated with honour and integrity, the stork with wisdom and long life, were subjects that Marks returned to a number of times), their infinite variety, colour and beauty can be beguiling. Ornitholgical paintings are a popular collecting area, with all manner of collectors choosing sporting birds like grouse and pheasants, to the birdwatcher who might favour garden or exotic birds, to those that are attracted to birds of prey. A good painter of birds can depict their subject with movement and realism, so that you feel you are actually seeing the real bird, rather than a flat depiction of one. Add to this a bit of style, colour and panache and they can be wonderful works of art. 

 

Henry Stacy Marks A Marabou stork, A Stork, A Crested Crane, A Stork

 Henry Stacy Marks RA (1829-1898) A MARABOU STORK; A STORK; A CRESTED CRANE; A STORK, oil on canvas. Provenance: The Tim Wonnacott, Collection. Estimate £8,000-12,000

 

In Stacy Marks’s crane and storks, we see four paintings which are arresting in their size, lending a stately air to the birds. Each is standing with dignity on a rock in or by a reeded pool, with landscape and sky beyond. The elongated shape of the canvases is unusual and works well do emphasize the height of the birds and lends them an almost aesthetic movement feel that would make them a welcome addition to any collection.

 

Fine Interiors Day Two - Wednesday 5 December 2018

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