Archibald Thorburn (31 May 1860 - 9 October 1935 Hascombe, Surrey) was a Scottish artist and bird illustrator, painting mostly in watercolour. He regularly visited Scotland to sketch birds in the wild, his favourite haunt being the Forest of Gaick near Kingussie in Invernesshire. His widely reproduced images of British wildlife, with their evocative and dramatic backgrounds, are enjoyed as much today as they were by sportsmen and birdlovers of a century ago.
Archibald Thorburn was born in 1860, near Edinburgh, the fifth son of the miniaturist Robert Thorburn ARA. He is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of birdlife of all time.
It was perhaps from his father that Archibald Thorburn acquired the ability to create his minutely detailed paintings and he sketched from a very early age. He painted birds, animals and flowers but he specialised in the study of game birds, as he had a tremendous knowledge of ornithology.
He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 20, and was a regular figure there throughout the 1880s and 1890s. At the end of the 1890s he became disillusioned with the Academy and exhibited instead at A Baird Carter, in Jermyn Street. Thorburn was also sufficiently highly-regarded by his contemporaries to have been asked to paint Queen Victoria on three separate occasions.
Generally preferring to work in watercolour, Thorburn’s skill, artistic talent and scientific observation ensured that he was recognised as one of the leading artists of his time. He died in 1935.
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