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Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Pelicanus Onocrotalus (Great White or Roseate Pelican)

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940), Pelicanus Onocrotalus (Great White or Roseate Pelican)

  • $ 25,000.00

Henrik Grönvold (Danish, 1858 –1940)
“Pelicanus Onocrotalus (Great White or Roseate Pelican)”
Prepared for Plate I 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 card
Signed ‘H Gronvold’ l.r.
Paper size: 6 7/8 x 5 1/2 in.
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 17 March 1999, lot 149, private collector.

“Of birds which have ceased to rank as British species, the Pelican and Common Crane come first in the order of time. Judging from bones found at Glastonbury both were common birds in the Romano-British period. Beyond this we have no record of the Pelican’s existence in Great Britain, and when it vanished we do not know. It inhabits South and East Europe, and has occurred in Denmark and France, ranging further north than the other European Pelican, P. crispus. A great white bird, frequenting the sea-coast and the marshes, it was probably killed for food by the men of the lake villages and of other marshy districts, and disappeared before days of civilization.

‘With Drayton’s picture in my mind and many old memories of immense congregations of Wild Fowl in the lakes and marshes of a distant region, witnessed in my early years but nevermore to be seen, I could reconstruct the past. ... It was early morning in early spring; at all events the geese had not gone yet, but were continually flying by overhead, flock succeeding flock, filling the world with their clangor. I watched the sky rather than the earth, feasting my eyes on the spectacle of great soaring birds. Buzzard and Kite and Marsh Harrier soared in wide circles above me, raining down their wild shrill cries. Other and greater birds were there as well, and greatest of all the Pelican, one of the large birds on which the marshmen lived, but doomed to vanish and be forgotten as a British species long ages before Drayton lived. . . . Then a new sound was heard from some distant spot, perhaps a mile away—a great chorus of wild ringing jubilant cries, echoing and re-echoing all over the illimitable watery expanse; and I knew it was the Crane—the Giant Crane that hath a trumpet sound .—Adventures Among Birds, Chap. XX., The Lake Village.’”


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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