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Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Pandion Haliatus (Osprey)

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Pandion Haliatus (Osprey)

  • $ 20,000.00

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940)
“Pandion Haliatus (Osprey)”
Prepared for XVIII 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 or card
Signed ‘H GRonvold’ l.r.
Paper size: 9 3/4 x 6 5/8 in.
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 17 March 1999, lot 149, private collector.

“Down almost to the middle of last century this bird, sometimes called the Fish-Hawk or Mullet Hawk, could be met with and its eyrie seen among the lochs and islets of the Highlands of Scotland, where it then bred ‘in the fancied continuance of that safety which had for so many years been real.’ Up to that time there was, we are told by Scottish naturalists, scarcely a loch without its pair of Ospreys. Within the last ten years it has become extinct, and not a bird exists even in the remotest corner of the land, except the few that from time to time wander to the British Isles on migration and are greeted by the keeper with his tribute of lead. The last indication of a breeding pair seems to have been in 1904, when an adult bird was seen at a loch feeding a young one.

For three-quarters of a century the story of the Osprey in Britain was a story of incessant persecution. To the gamekeeper it is one of the hated tribe of Hawks; to the water-keeper it is an object of still more deadly hate, because it takes of the fish in lake or stream: for the Osprey feeds exclusively on fish, plunging down upon them like a gannet and fixing its curved talons in them with the strike of a Falcon. So certain is its aim that in old days it was believed to possess some magical power by which fish were compelled to rise and float on the surface in readiness to be taken. Moreover, as with other rare species, so with the Osprey. The measure of its rarity was the measure of the collector’s zeal to secure a British-taken specimen.

That the Fish-Hawk lingered so long on the verge of extermination is due mainly to the vigilant protection afforded by two Highland lairds on whose estates the last of the British race nested for many years. The Gold Medal of the Zoological Society was rarely better merited than by Grant of Rothiemurchus, and Cameron of Lochiel, to whom it was awarded in 1895 for their efforts to preserve the noble birds that found sanctuary with them. In one of these instances the birds were known to have nested in the same place—a ruined tower on an island in Loch-an-Eilan—for sixty years. They mate for life, renewing the same nest year after year and probably generation after generation, so that the structure grows to a huge size. One of the nesting birds was eventually killed, and the remaining bird apparently found no mate; no young have been reared there within the present century. At Loch Lomond they nested down to the evil days of the forties and fifties, but ‘a noted sportsman and author, to his great regret afterwards, shot the female bird, and since then the birds have forsaken the place.’ How would the glimpse of such a bird give an added grandeur to the lake and to the misty sides of the mountain, could the tourist see the soaring flight and the bold plunge now!

In 1883 Seebohm wrote of the Ospreys as ‘one of the finest, though fast-expiring ornaments of the wild mountain-lochs, the bleak barren moors, and upland forests.’ Its numbers, he goes on to say, ‘have greatly decreased and only a few pairs resort to the central and northern districts of the Highlands for the purpose of rearing their young. There are still one or two eyries in Inverness-shire and Rossshire, and also in Galloway—a sufficient number of birds, if strictly preserved, to retain the Osprey in the rank of a regular migrant to our islands.’ But Seebohm did not take into account that protection at the nest is not enough for a migratory species. Many miles of an unfriendly land have to be crossed before the breeding-ground is reached and again when the return southward is made; and if any of the Inverness- or Rossshire race have endeavoured to seek the old home doubtless they have fallen to trap or gun. Eighteen years later than Seebohm, Mr. Harvie-Browne wrote, in a leaflet prepared for the Society for the Protection of Birds: ‘The history of Scottish Ospreys goes back into the last [eighteenth] century, whence the chronology of their dates, with here and there a hiatus, extends down to the present time. That is to say, we have sufficiently continuous data to mark distinctly their almost, if not quite, continuous occupation of many sites in Scotland. But at the present day these numerous sites, principally by the cupidity of private collectors, have been long deserted, and the places that once knew these fine and harmless birds know them no longer, and the glory has departed from many an ancient stronghold.’ From the last of those strongholds it has now disappeared.

In olden days the Fish-Hawk almost certainly bred in England. It is said to have done so in the Lake district as recently as the end of the eighteenth century. For at least a hundred years, however, it has been known to us only as a passing migrant on the way to or from the nesting-place. In one or two instances it would appear that the place sought was not far distant, as in that of a female bird shot on a public common at Beverley in Yorkshire, in June 1898. September is the month when the birds fly south, and it is usually then that we come across mention of an Osprey being seen in the vicinity of a more of less secluded piece of water, with the almost inevitable addition that it had been shot and stuffed and added to the ornithological records of the county. Mr. Bucknill’s Birds of Surrey gives a list of fourteen occurrences; in ten of these the visitor was killed. The most favoured spot is Frensham Pond, at which place Gilbert White reported its visit in 1772. ‘The Osprey was shot about a year ago at Frensham-pond, a great lake, at about six miles from hence, while it was sitting on the handle of a plough and devouring a fish.’ Two others have been killed in the county since Mr. Bucknill’s list was compiled, one by a keeper at Vachery Pond, near Cranleigh, on the plea that its presence was inimical to the interests of a fishing club that was being organised. By this time some effort had been made to preserve rare birds by the help of the law, and master and man were each fined and their dead victim taken out of their keeping.

A typical incident which occurred in 1878 is recorded in Witchell’s Fauna of Gloucestershire. A pair of Ospreys appeared in the Golden Valley, near Stroud. ‘The sight of these majestic hawks soaring on wings wide as the Heron’s was enough to stir the ardour of every gunner in the neighbourhood.’ One of the birds was soon shot, bought, and stuffed. “ For some days the other remained in the vicinity, and in one day four attempts were made to shoot it without apparent effect, and then it quitted the inhospitable Cotswolds, to which it never returned.’ These were very probably birds on the way from their Scottish home.

The Osprey has been seen as near London as Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. Wandering from the Park to Barnes, after a stay of some weeks in 1889, one of these noble strangers was promptly shot. Its wild fierce spirit must have seemed out of all harmony with a London suburb even in those days. But nine years later Londoners had the rare delight of seeing the great Hawk fishing in the Pen Ponds; and this bird is believed to have got safely out of England.

‘They are abundant with us on sea-coasts and in the Isle of Wight. Our people call it an Osprey.’— John Caius (1570).

‘A bird which as a breeding species is reduced to a solitary pair or so. Of such is the heritage of the modem ornithologist. What trap and gun have not attained, the collector’s zeal has accomplished.’—P. H. Bahr in British Birds, I. 17 (1907).

‘Years ago, before the railway had joined the Highland solitudes with southern industry, before such attention was given to the preservation of game and the destruction of ‘vermin,’ the Osprey dwelt among the mountain Lochs, or on the brown heathlands studded thickly with stunted fir and birch trees. Now his haunts, which are only few and far between, appear to be the dense pine-forests that clothe the steep and rocky hill-sides, or away lower down the slopes in the broad stretches of bogland thinly sprinkled with timber and overgrown with green and treacherous moss and rushes. . . . Here, on these strictly preserved estates, the Osprey is a regular visitor in the summer months, and bids fair, with the aid of the protection now afforded it, to re-instate itself in the home of its ancestors.’— Seebohm’s British Birds.”


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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