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Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Limose Belgica (Black-tailed Godwit)

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Limose Belgica (Black-tailed Godwit)

  • $ 20,000.00

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940)
“Limose Belgica (Black-tailed Godwit)”
Prepared for Plate VII W.H. Hudson and L. Gardiner, Rare, Vanishing and Lost British Birds (1923)
Pencil and watercolor heightened with gouache, some with touches of gum Arabic on paper
Signed ‘H Gronvold’ l.l.
Paper size: 7 x 6 in.
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 17 March 1999, lot 149, private collector.

“This fine game-bird, like the Avocet that preceded it by a few years in that last sad migration, is an inhabitant of the waste and solitary fens and meres. As Robert Mudie so well says, ‘They give life to the places which men neglect;’ and it is most curious to note that all these waders and denizens of the sandy shore and marshy flats—Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel, Godwit, Sandpiper, and Stilt—which, as Mudie again says, ‘are associated with wildness and infertility,’ are of a loquacious disposition, with wild, clear, penetrating voices of such an indescribable quality, that he who hears them is exhilarated and lifted above himself more than by all the melody and laughter-like cries of woods and groves.

Lubbock in his Fauna (1845) says: ‘Whilst the Redshank in the breeding season flew dashing round the head of the intruder on her territories, and endeavoured, like the Lapwing, to mislead the stranger from the nest, higher
in the air, and flying in bolder circles, uttering a louder cry, was the Blacktailed Godwit, called provincially the ‘Shrieker’ from its piercing cries. The bird is now almost extinct in this part of Norfolk; it used to breed at Buckenham, Thyrne, Horsey, and one or two other places.’

This species, although so highly esteemed for the table, was in one way more favoured by nature than the conspicuous Avocet; the russet-brown and mottled plumage of the male and dun colour of the female, were in a measure protective, while the bird was of a shy, retiring disposition and semi-nocturnal in its feeding habits. According to Stevenson, its extermination in Norfolk may be said to have occurred between the years 1829 and 1835, and at the time when Lubbock wrote it had no doubt become an irregular migrant only. He adds: ‘It seems probable, however, that during the next twenty years a pair or two occasionally returned to the old haunts
in the spring, though only to be robbed of their eggs or shot down for their rarity.’

‘Formerly summer residents, breeding from south Yorkshire to Norfolk; last, Norfolk 1847, and possibly Lincolnshire 1885. No proof of more recent breeding.’— Witherby’s Handbook.

‘In England it is generally distributed though by no means abundant. It breeds occasionally, though sparingly, in the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk fens, near Buckenham and Oby. It is common about Breydon, in Norfolk; it belongs also to the Northumbrian. Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire coasts. In Suffolk two in full summer plumage were shot in a fen near Wisbech, 4th May, 1850.’—Morris’s History of British Birds. [When these words were published the Godwit, as a British breeding species, was already extinct.]”


Henrik Grönvold studied drawing in Copenhagen and worked first as a draughtsman of the Royal Danish Army’s artillery and an illustrator at the Biological Research Station of Copenhagen. In 1892, Grönvold left Denmark for London, employed at the Natural History Museum preparing anatomical specimens. There he became a skilled taxidermist and established a reputation as an artist. He was employed at the Museum until 1895 when he accompanied William Ogilvie-Grant on an expedition to the Salvage Islands. After this expedition, Grönvold worked at the Museum in an unofficial capacity as an artist for decades and only left London to attend an ornithological congress in Berlin.

Grönvold’s illustrations mainly appeared in scientific periodicals such as the Proceedings and Transactions of the Zoological Society, The Ibis, and the Avicultural Magazine. In these publications, he drew plates for William Ogilvie-Grant, George Albert Boulenger, and Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas, among others. Grönvold also completed numerous plates for Walter Rothschild, many of which appeared in Rothschild’s journal Novitates Zoologicae. Grönvold mostly illustrated birds and eggs, rare and newly discovered species from many parts of the world, and mostly worked in lithographs.

Among the books, Grönvold illustrated is George Shelley’s Birds of Africa, which contained 57 plates, many of which had not been illustrated before. He illustrated W. L. Buller’s books on the birds of New Zealand, Brabourne’s Birds of South America, Henry Eliot Howard’s The British Warblers (1907–14), Charles William Beebe’s A Monograph of the Pheasants (1918–22), and Herbert Christopher Robinson’s The Birds of the Malay Peninsula (1929–76). He completed 600 hand-colored plates for twelve volumes of The Birds of Australia (1910–27) by Gregory Macalister Mathews. Grönvold subsequently provided numerous illustrations for Mathews’ The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands … (1928) and A Supplement to The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands … (1936).

by Henrik Grönvold for William Henry Hudson

William Henry Hudson (1841-1922) was a naturalist, author, and staunch advocate for avian preservation and conservancy. Hudson’s lifelong commitment to protecting the environment stemmed from his youth in Argentina, where he marveled at the beauty of nature, spending endless hours watching the drama of forest and field unfold before him. This idyllic upbringing was beautifully penned in the artist’s work Far Away and Long Ago (1918), which remains a cult favorite amongst many novelists, including Ernest Hemingway, who wrote that Hudson’s book was a must-read for any young writer.

Hudson gravitated to studying birds, which guided his life’s work as an ornithologist and author of numerous tomes on the subject. When he settled in England in 1874, he joined the numerous societies for naturalists of the period and became a founding member of the Royal Society to protect birds.

In 1894, W.H. Hudson produced a leaflet titled Lost British Birds produced for Society for the Protection of Birds. Its purpose was to shed light on thirteen “lost” birds which he defined as those “which no longer breed in this country and visit our shores only as rare stragglers, or, bi-annually, in their migrations to and from their breeding areas on the continent Europe,” to concretely show the effect of industrialism, game hunting, and fashion on the sustainability of certain bird species. This pamphlet was illustrated with 15 rudimentary black and white line drawings by A.D. McCormick. Almost immediately after producing his brochure, Hudson began to collect notes for a future publication that would elaborate upon and update facts on endangered and extinct bird species.

Hudson spent the nineteen-teens and early twenties preparing his next publication. When his notes were organized, and he tapped the celebrated ornithological painter Henrik Grönvold (1858-1940) to produce a sophisticated full-color composition for each bird he intended to discuss at length. However, Hudson suddenly died in 1922 before the publication could come to fruition. Hudson’s colleague, Linda Gardiner, pushed the project forward to see it through in 1923.


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