All illustrations by Ernest Thompson Seton; above: detail of ALL #362
Seton landed several early design commissions, including one for a series of bird illustrations in 1881. This soon led to more challenging assignments. Comparing his rendering ability in 1881 to what he achieved by 1884 shows a most impressive progression. As a curator, had I at the time seen his early work, I would not have predicted just how good he would become three years later.
Not long afterward, the comprehensive multi-volumed Century Dictionary needed a natural history illustrator. Upon the recommendation of the prominent ornithologist Elliott Coues, Seton found himself with a lucrative (for an illustrator, anyway) commission to make a thousand drawings for the publication before the end of 1886. This led to an ongoing avalanche of work taking him to the time when he became a best-selling author in 1898.
(Eye fatigue in 1893 led him to take a wolf-hunting sojourn in New Mexico.)
The Seton art collection at the Academy for the Love of Learning includes many original bird images created in various media. Most of the avian subjects are not identified, so our ornithologist friends are welcome to contact me with their identifications. I’ll begin posting the images with this blog and continue with additional postings.
My organizational scheme will be to show them in numerical order according to their (random) placement in our collections catalog. To enhance graphic quality, I will show most of them in black and white. The only dates shown are those written by Seton. I have added a few bats and bugs for variety. Click on image to enlarge.
Credit Line: Academy for the Love of Learning, Santa Fe, New Mexico. All rights reserved. Reproduction permission.