This is an area of pheasant shoots, and while those ready to take aim will have to wait until October 1 for that, August 12 is the start of the Red Grouse season.
While blasting birds out of the sky has never been my passion, the paintings of game birds by Archibald Thorburn are. His depictions of pheasant, grouse and ptarmigan are pre-eminent among British bird painters of the past century, as prices at auction will confirm. A decent watercolour of any of these birds in a moorland setting will have no problem encouraging bids up to the £25,000 mark.
Collectors have long taken aim at Thorburn but I suppose he really came into his own when the popularity of shooting spread from the landed gentry to commercial shoots in the 1980s. Born the son of a miniaturist painter who worked for Queen Victoria near Edinburgh in 1860, Thorburn had little to no formal training except for a brief stint at art school in St John’s Wood. What really set him on the road to his life’s work was a stroke of luck. In 1887 when the Dutch artist J.G. Keulemans fell ill, Thorburn took over the commission from Lord Lilford of Northampton to complete the illustrations for the seven-volume Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands. By the time he finished his career had taken flight.