Friday, January 21, 2011

Recollection: Bird Drawings from Sir Peter Shepheard

“Thank you” to my blogging friends who helped me identify the birds on my last post. I delight in looking at the birds coming to our bird feeders and often spend too much time looking at them and trying to catch them with my camera. There are so many birds to watch whether we are in an urban setting or a rural one.

My husband and I often will stop what we are doing to watch a bird land on a branch close to the window or perch on one of the bird feeders. Often in the morning there will be 10 to 12 doves eating seeds on the ground. Once in a while we even see a hawk or an owl – such beautiful creatures.

Red Tailed Hawk, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, American 1874-1927
In my post about the spoon given to me by Duke Visconti (click here) I mentioned that I would show pictures of another Christmas gift I received years ago. The presents were drawings of birds created by Sir Peter Shepheard. Here is one of them below.

original Raptor drawing by Sir Peter Shepheard

My husband studied at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to obtain his Master’s Degree in Environmental Land Use Planning. At the time, in the early 1970s, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at this university was offering some of the first graduate courses given anywhere in the US and abroad in the environmental land use planning field. These were the early days when to study the “environment” and “ecology” was considered very unconventional. Peter Shepheard (1913-2002), a British architect, planner and landscape designer was dean and professor at the university. Later on, in 1980, he was knighted for “service to architecture.”

Picture of Peter Shepheard in an earlier photograph
My husband, very interested in the environment before it became fashionable, had read “Design with Nature” written by Ian L. McHarg (1920-2001) a renowned Scottish landscape architect who pioneered the concept of ecological planning. Ian McHarg founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia which is why my husband went there. After my husband obtained his Master’s degree we thought we would go back to California. In the early 70s the environment, even in California, was not of much interest. One of the job offers was from a visionary young governor in Georgia who was trying to bring some good land use planning to his state. This is why we moved to Atlanta where my husband started working on a special project for Governor Jimmy Carter. But I don’t want to go on a tangent here.

University of Pennsylvania quadrangle Dorm, Philadelphia (source Wikimedia)
The 15 or so grad students attending these classes and their professors were a close group. We went to several parties. At one of these parties I spoke with Peter Shepheard who was a European like me, since he was from England. He was passionate about nature and enthusiastically promoted ecology and consideration for the environment. He wrote several books and articles where he produced all the line drawings as he was also an accomplished draughtsman/artist.

Sir Peter Shepheard’s drawing of an albatross from “The Wandering Albatross” by William Jameson
In England his work included landscape designs for the London Zoo, garden design for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Bessborough Gardens. He also worked on the restoration of the garden at Charleston Farmhouse in the heart of South Downs in Sussex. He drew up the design and the planting plans for these gardens. This was the former home of Clive and Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) was the sister of renowned author Virginia Woolf.

Gardens at Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, England (source Wikimedia)

In 1916 Clive and Vanessa Bell and her partner Duncan Grant acquired this Sussex farmhouse and garden. They were pacifists and conscientious objectors to World War I. To be exempted from military service one had to work on the land. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) lived with her husband, writer and publisher Leonard Woolf, across the fields in Rodmell.

Picture of Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf

The Charleston farmhouse and gardens became a place where the Bloomsbury set (a group of intellectuals, philosophers, writers and artists) would meet and create.

Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf had a bohemian lifestyle and they decorated the house with paintings and pottery. Vanessa Bell and her partner Duncan Grant planted a cottage garden with Mediterranean influences. They chose plants with intense colors and beautiful foliage which became the subject of many still life paintings. This was an enchanted retreat for the Bloomsbury Group. Unfortunately when Clive Bell passed away in 1964 the house and the gardens started to deteriorate. Sir Peter Shepheard helped with the garden restoration.

There is now a festival at the Charleston Farmhouse each May with several events presented by international writers, historians, artists, architects, etc. With its beautiful garden and luxuriant plants this is an enchanted spot to have a festival. In addition to the colorful flowers there are mosaic pavements, tile edged pools and a variety of sculptures.

Sir Peter Shepheard explained all this history to me and when we left the party he told us he would see us again at the forthcoming Christmas party. I spent the week prior to Christmas baking a great assortment of cookies, bars, and sweets. I brought them to the party but I also gave both Sir Peter and Ian McHarg a Christmas tin full of my baking. Sir Peter was very pleased and asked me to select several drawings from his sketchbook (which he always kept with him.) I chose the two below -

Sir Peter insisted that I chose at least 3 or 4 more. I chose the drawing of the raptor shown above and the following two drawings which we had framed later.

We have treasured these two framed pictures for years now. We also enjoy looking at our collection of vintage postcards of birds. Here are some from a series produced by the National Wildlife Federation, copyrighted in 1939.

Below are more postcards that are from a series published by the Audubon Society.

Either in our yard or inside the house on the wall, birds have always been a part of our lives.

Wondrous Birds by Hans Thoma, German, 1839-1924


Roger Gauthier said...

Stop it stop it stop it! :-)

Wonderful post, so well documented. I say "stop it" because here we're having a winter that is cold without being aw real winter, no fun in it, no fun outside, at least not very much... I am thinking of going to Southern USA for a couple of weeks, I want to see some beautiful birds... :-)


Vagabonde said...

Merci Roger pour ce gentil commentaire.

If you would like to look at birds and not travel all the way to the Deep South I invite you to go and look at my friend Elaine’s blog from Alaska. Her blog is one of the first I followed in early 2009. She always has beautiful birds in her posts and today she had a large number of sandpipers -

DJan said...

We are so fortunate here in the Pacific Northwest to have so many wonderful birds, I often seen flocks of trumpeter swans flying overhead, sandhill cranes, and of course lots of eagles and seagulls. We live less than a mile from the water. And of course all my bird feeders bring much smaller birds around. Wonderful pictures, VB.

Margaret said...

There is SO much about this post I absolutely adore, not least of all Sir Peter Shepheard's line drawings. I always feel I need to "finish" my drawings with paint. But I love the line and feel of pure ink or charcoal or pencil. This has inspired me to leave a few in the raw, so to speak. You are SO lucky to have these sketches - truly just stunning! The best gift ever, I would think. I also love the back history of the environmental work that brought you and your husband to George and the photos of the English gardens ... So much here for me to follow up on and explore. Oh, I also adore your postcards. I need to pull the OLD postcards I have that my grandmother kept (She was born 1882 - and one of the women featured in my "hat" poem on by blog. I will be posting about them soon on my blog - some are still in their original envelope.

Thank you for your enjoyable posts - I just love the artwork in this one especially.

Fennie said...

You were so lucky to have been given these drawings. Now that I come to think of it I have never been particularly interested in how birds look - but I am mightily interested in how they behave. Why does every chicken, for instance, scratch the ground in the same way, first one leg and then the other. How do weaver birds build their elaborate nests? These behaviours have to be hard-wired into their brains and therefore into their DNA. How does such a memory 'chip' look in the genome? Can it be altered? Could you programme a chicken to do certain things? Not learned behaviour but innate behaviour. I studied animal behaviour briefly as part of my psychology course and it has fascinated me ever since. But of course I can see the beauty of these drawings of Peter Shepeard also. Lovely blog again. So interesting.

Rosaria Williams said...

How this brings it all together, love of nature, landscaping, drawing, literature, gardening and lifestyles. You've had an exciting life, Vagabonde. I'm happy you and I found each other and are sharing so.

p.s. my son's significant other is attending the U. of Pennsylvania's graduate school, studying Landscape Architecture. How about that for synchronicity?

Friko said...

How lucky you are to have the famous man's drawings.

This another of your lovely, well-researched nd interesting posts. It is quite wonderful how you link so many different aspects of your life together with the help of a single subject, this time birds.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I LOVE all the Bird Pictures--the Drawings and The Postcards. One of the great pleasures of my life, when I could still go down into my garden, was watching all the Birds come and Bath in the Water Sculpture....And then later, following three baby Hawks as they grew and began to fly--I must have taken 1500 to 2000 pictures of them, if not more...! So I really "get" the love of all these Beautiful Creatures of Nature!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post a lot. The line drawings of Sir Shepheard are exceptional. Colin

Ruth said...

Oh this is a beautiful history, as only you tell, with personal connection, fame, generosity, art and history all tied in a satin ribbon for us, your grateful readers.

I have not seen an owl yet in the wild. We hear them here, but I long to see one. We do see many birds. I think we have counted around 40 species on the farm, but surely there are many more I don't recognize. You know I love the bluebird most of all.

Peter Shepheard, like the Count who gave you the silver spoon, is another wonderful, generous soul. The drawings are a treasured memento of this man. One question: What kind of "partner" was Duncan Grant to Vanessa Bell? I take it Clive was her husband?

I don't know if you saw it, I don't think so, but I have a little historical post about Audubon with illustrations from a large book I inherited, the largest illustrated book ever, at least it once was. You can see the post here:

claude said...

Roger a raison, voilà encore un joli post et très intéressant de surcroît. J'arrive à identifier les oiseau des EU grâce au blog d'Abraham Lincoln de Brookville dans l'Ohio et je peux écouter 50 chants d'oiseau de là-bas à l'aide du birdfinder que mon amie Julia m'a envoyé.
Moi aussi, je n'arrête pas de les regarder et de les photographier par la fenêtre.
Suite à mon dernier post sur mon rouge-gorge, j'en ai reçu un des EU par e.mail d'une personne que je ne connais absolument pas. Elle est née en Bretagne et de bien beau souvenir un rouge-gorge d'Angleterre. Avec sa persmision je le posterai sans doute la semaine prochaine.
Un long texte en anglais l'accompagnait mais j'ai bien été incapable de tout comprendre.
Bises !

Jeanie said...

What treasures -- so many of us collect art and find things that touch our souls or speak to our interests. But not everyone is so lucky to not only have beautiful art, but have known the artist and have such wonderful stories to share. What a provenance for this work!

Vagabonde, in each post I am always dazzled by not only the theme you share (and your images which always captivate my eye) but how you are able to tell the story, insert the history to gracefully and bring it all full circle. Truly, each visit is a learning experience!

Darlene said...

A wonderful post with lots to explore. I do not know my birds and the only ones I can identify outside my door are the numerous Doves, Cactus Wrens, and an occasional Road Runner. I have never been able to photograph them because my security door makes noise when I try to open it and scares them away. The only birds in my back yard are the Doves who use my fence as a resting place.

Our birds are noisy and they have been twittering and chattering for days. It makes me think Spring is going to arrive soon.

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post! I love the way you vagabond from one fascinating

Z said...

That is all so interesting, thank you. I've visited Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville West's garden, but never Charleston.

(By the way, Blogland is a small world - of course, we both visit Rosaria's blog, from which you came to comment on mine, but I recognise OldOldLady from Pat's Past Imperfect blog too, though I've never visited her - about time I made her acquaintance, I think!)

Anonymous said...

I think every paragraph of things you wrote about has been of interest to me especially in the 1970s and 1980s. I did my best to make people aware of our environment and that we needed to take care of it. I read the same books, looked at the same pictures and gave most of the books away to inspire others. I have spent the last half dozen years trying to do more with my photos of birds and insects but so far no publishing deals. I know my photos are a lot better than anything I got in any Audubon publications and I think better than pictures in Stokes publications. But that is the end of it. Nobody wants them, except me. lol

I really enjoyed reading the post and looking at the pictures.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

:*:*:*:*: Hello Vagabonde ! :o) Moi qui aime les oiseaux je suis très heureuse aujourd'hui de visiter ta nouvelle publication !!! MERCI ! c'est SUPERBE !!!!! Je te souhaite un bon lundi ! GROS BISOUS !!!! :o) :*:*:*:*:

Baino said...

What a colourful past you've enjoyed and the framed drawings, quite a treasure.

Ginnie said...

So THAT'S why you came to Atlanta, Vagabonde. I had no idea. Don't get me started on Jimmy Carter, one of my heroes. I had the chance to meet him when he signed my copy of his poetry book Always a Reckoning in 1994. I will never forget that day in my life. I know he's not what your post is about, but as you see, that's where I went. :)

BJM said...

A most interesting story! And that you were given some drawings which you have been able to enjoy all these years is really quite special, isn't it?!

Like Z in the comments above, I have visited Sissinghurst. It was early July and the whole place was quite, quite beautiful!

bowsprite said...

beautiful! greetings from NYC where we wake up to hear the birds cough!

much love to you! xoxo c!

Unknown said...

Beautiful! Inspiring! And educational besides! Love it. I think I will have to keep coming back to visit here. :)

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

✿ ✿ ✿ En ce mercredi matin je viens te souhaiter une agréable journée Chère Vagabonde, GROS BISOUS !!!!! :o) ✿ ✿ ✿

Dutchbaby said...

I absolutely adore every bit of this post, Vagabonde! Your cookies must have been wonderful and your genuine interest in Shepheard's work must have opened up the generous heart of this talented artist. The perched raptor and the grebe drawings are my favorites.

Ruth, you own a copy of that Audubon book????

Reader Wil said...

Beautiful paintings of birds, the names of which I don't know either. We have also many birds in the garden like: great tits, blue tits, sparrows, blackbirds, sometimes a blue jay, crows, pigeons, occasionally a robin, finches, but never a cardinal, which I regret, because I think it is such a cheerfully coloured bird.

✿France✿ said...

je viens aussi te dire bonjour et je vois des oiseaux. TU sais ils sont sublimes oui oui je le pense bien.
Quel plaisir je trouve que de regarder ces oiseaux.
Je ne reste pas car j'ai des virus sur mon autre ordi et là je suis partie à la chasse.
Je t'embrasse

Miss_Yves said...

Des "oiseaux merveilleux", mais aussi
un merveilleux parcours professionnel, intellectuel et artistique, dans ce billet!

Arti said...

This is such a beautiful blog! I like all your photos, and their presentations. I'm a bird lover, and for a short while in my life during my college days been a keen admirer of urban planning and design. I love literature too, so am glad to read about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group on a post about landscape architecture. And what an experience to have known an artist/architect/academic as Shepheard and received from him his works. Thank you for sharing them with us. I will definitely be back and explore more of your wonderful site!

katiekono said...

Lovely post and pictures! Thank you for your comments on my fledgling blog...I am still finding my wings!

I want to talk to you about crows. In fact, i think I will turn it into a blog post, dedicated to you. My friend and neighbor, Tony Angell, is an artist and sculptor. He noticed some of the same interesting things i have noted about crows and he and a friend decided to research and w2rite a book about them. It is gorgeous: here's the link. Check out my latest entry!

Mary Bergfeld said...

The post was fascinating. You have a rich past and lovely momentoes to remind you of those special times. Thank you for sharing those memories with us. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Vagabonde said...

Djan – You do have beautiful birds in your part of the country and I know you have a tender heart toward them.

Margaret Bednar – I’d love to look at your old postcards, it will be a treat to see them on your future posts.

Fennie – Studying animal behavior must be a fascinating field. I know I am fascinated when I watch the birds – they are sometimes so funny, then also so kind – giving seeds to their partners.

Vagabonde said...

Abraham Lincoln – isn’t it discouraging when one understands what is happening to our environment and realizes that so many people don’t and what is more don’t care. I think that the public is finally seeing the consequences of human acts on our world and I hope it is not too late.

Lady from the Hills – following the growth of baby hawks must have been so exciting. I’d love to see some of your photos on this.

Ruth – what a treasure to have this Audubon book. It would take me hours and hours to look at it. Thanks for your comment.

Rosaria – isn’t that interesting that you know someone who attends Landscape Architecture at the same university my husband attended. Ask him about Ian McHarg and Sir Shepheard – I bet he has heard of them.

Vagabonde said...

Z, Arti, Katiekono – welcome to my blog. It is a pleasure to meet you and I hope you will come as often as you like. I always enjoy meeting new people.

BJM – I have not visited Sissinghurst but hear it is spectacular. I think that Charleston Farmhouse Gardens are much smaller. Thanks for the visit.

Ginnie – yes Jimmy Carter is the reason we came to Georgia as he offered a position to my husband. I’ll write several posts on this in the future. Thanks for the comment.

Claude, Nancy, Reader Wil, France, Miss Yves - Merci pour tous ces gentils commentaires. Nous sommes toutes des admiratrices d’oiseaux je vois. C’est toujours un plaisir de voir vos noms apparaîtrent sur mon blog.

Friko, Jeanie, Darlene, Vicki Lane, Baino, Bowsprite, Tim, Dutchbaby and Mary – I enjoyed all your comments and am pleased that this post was of interest to you. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

Elaine said...

Another lovely post! You ar fortunate indeed to have such beautiful drawings from Sir Peter. What a wonderful gift he gave you!

Lonicera said...

Such an interesting post - to which I've arrived a bit late. I hope you'll do a future post about your husband's work, would love to read it.

livininlb said...

I recognized the framed pictures right away but never knew until now the history behind them (plus, now I get the book/birthday present even more!!)

Unknown said...

Very nice post. Peter Shepheard was my grandfather. I remember his sketchbook well! It's great to see these drawings.

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