This attractive and rare print of a buzzard by Joseph Wölf , originates from the sumptuous work ‘The new and heretofore unfigured species of the birds of North America’, published 1866-1869. Of this work only 200 copies were printed. Lithographic printing by Bowen & Co. of Philadelphia. The image is 47 x 42 cm, the sheet is 60 x 48 cm. The work is in good condition.
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Joseph Wölf (21 January 1820 – 20 April 1899) was a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. He moved to the British Museum in 1848 and became the preferred illustrator for explorers and naturalists including David Livingstone, Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates. Wölf depicted animals accurately in lifelike postures and is considered one of the great pioneers of wildlife art. Sir Edwin Landseer thought him “…without exception, the best all-round animal artist who ever lived”‘. Wölf’s abilities were widely acclaimed even in his lifetime. Wölf established wildlife art as a genre and his observation of living birds allowed him to produce illustrations in very accurate and lifelike stances. On occasion he would come back from a trip and produce very accurate sketches from memory. He was very careful in his observation of feather patterns and when he read the works of Sundevall and Nitzsch on pterylography, he had nothing new to learn. The zoologist Alfred Newton called him “the greatest of all animal painters”, while Landseer said that Wölf must have been a bird before he became a man. Wölf made numerous drawings in pen and charcoal as well as lithographs for scholarly societies such as the Zoological Society of London (he produced 340 “attractive” colour plates for the ZSL Proceedings in the course of 30 years), and a very large number of illustrations for books on natural history and travel published from various countries; and was considerably successful as a painter as well. Until 1946, the cover of the journal Ibis carried a woodcut by Wölf of an Ibis against a background with ruins, a pyramid and a rising sun. In 1946 the sun was removed from the background; the design was entirely changed in 1948 due to excessive wear of the block. In 1865, J H Gurney named a species of harrier after Wölf but it was found to be an already described species. Wolf died in London, surrounded by his pet birds. He is buried in Highgate cemetery.