[EDWARDS, George (1694-1773,) attributed to]
The Goldfinch [and] The American Goldfinch from New York... [Pair of ornithological watercolours, depicting two different goldfinches]
Watercolour on laid paper; one captioned 'The American Goldfinch from New York,' the other captioned 'The Goldfinch.' Image size: [American Goldfinch] 11 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches; [Goldfinch] 11 1/16 x 8 1/2 inches.
A lovely pair of original watercolours attributed to George Edwards.
The Fairhaven inventories attribute these unsigned drawings to George Edwards. George Edwards, known as "the father of British ornithology", was a famed naturalist who produced a monumental seven volume series of bird etchings with hand-written descriptions, oft cited by Carl Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae. "George Edwards was born at Stratford, Essex, and received his early education at a public school at Leytonstone, later being apprenticed to a tradesman in London. Having access to a large library of scientific books Edwards studied these assiduously and, having made up his mind not to enter business, decided to travel abroad. Between 1716 and 1733 he visited many foreign countries but in December of the latter year settled down in London and, through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, was chosen Librarian to the Royal College of Physicians. Almost immediately after he was appointed, Edwards commenced the preparation of a series of coloured drawings of animals and birds; for these he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society and subsequently elected a fellow." (Lisney p. 127). Edwards "has been well described as an unscientific but very accurate describer and painter of animal life, and his writings will always remain of paramount authority, from the faithfulness of his description of many new birds, subsequently incorporated in the Linnean System. He had, says Swainson, the simplicity and piety of Izaac Walton, and may be looked upon as one of our greatest worthies. He retired about 1764 to Plaistow, died July 23, 1773, and was buried at West Ham." ( Mullens and Swann p.194). In these two attributed works, the differences between the European and American goldfinches are explored in beautiful detail. Although they share a common name, the two birds belong to different genera, and the distinctions between these two birds is evident in Edwards' work. The verso of the first drawing carries a reference to Edwardss Gleanings in an early hand, and another note From New York The American Gold Finch of Catesbey [sic].
cf. Lisney pp. 128-144; cf. Mullens & Swann p. 195.