The covey at daybreak - Partridges signed and dated 'A.Thorburn/1892' (lower right) watercolour and bodycolour 68 x 114cm (26 3/4 x 44 7/8in).
PROVENANCE: Thorburn Museum, Liskeard Sale, Sotheby's London, 'Works by Archibald Thorburn from the Thorburn Museum' 31 March 1993, lot 15 Purchased from the above sale by the family of the present owner Thence by descent
LITERATURE: John Southern, Thorburn's Landscape, The Major Natural History Paintings, Elm Tree Books, London 1981, p. 30, ill. John Southern, Thorburn's Birds and Mammals, Newton Abbott, 1986, p. 44, ill.
'Three drops of dew lying uneasily upon the blackberry leaves confirm the break of day. A partridge covey awakens upon the autumnal stubble, the old cock bird rasping out his grating greeting to the sunrise far beyond the hill side brow. Meanwhile, another covey glides in from a neighbouring field upon which they have spent the autumnal night. In the valley below a farmstead nestles snugly within its patchworked pastures, the harvest safely gathered in amid the barnyard ricks.' (Southey, Thorburn's Birds and Mammals)
The present lot encapsulates the English countryside exactly as Thorburn saw it, a romantic vibrant land abundant with life and rural activity and for him it brought an overwhelming sense of space and peace. He dedicated his life to capturing the changes in the seasons, the varying colours of the land and the agricultural activities associated with them. The changing colours of the Ptarmigan plumage in spring, the cock and hen Pheasants sheltering in a snowy woodland in December, the Red Grouse packing in August and the Partridge nestling in the newly harvested field in September formed a structure that he would live by for his entire life.
As Simon Taylor writes in the catalgoue notes, '[Thorburn's] England is a land of small fields and dense oak woods, of hedgerows dotted with wild flowers, of deep snow in winter and glowing days in summer'. The present lot is especially powerful in capturing that lost world, not least through the sense of space and peace but also because the farming husbandry would be unacceptable today; the numerous ears of barley hang amongst the stubble, and an errant briar offers up ripe fruit.1.
1.Simon Taylor, catalogue notes, 'Works by Archibald Thorburn from the Thorburn Museum' Sotheby's, 31 March 1993