History of Birds in Art


        Birds enchant humans: their ordinary presence in daily life, flamboyant colors, adorable manner, singer voice, and the very mystery of flying.

        The early presence of birds can be found in the prehistoric cave paintings and ancient Egyptian wall paintings. Antiquity and the Medieval endowed birds with personalities and virtue, transforming them into symbolic motifs. Not until Renaissance were birds treated as individual creatures coexisting with humans, studied by scholars for a curiosity of their surrounding world. As approaching to the modern, birds captured people’s attention for a growing scientific interest. An outburst of art and journals on birds emerged.

        While the role of birds in the West underwent a long and changing history, these animals have largely remained as subjects of the artistic presentations with auspicious symbolisms in East Asian art. But there are traces of interesting overlapping between the West and the East...


More about history:

Lambourne, Maureen. The Art of Bird Illustration. Secaucus, N.J.: Wellfleet Press, 1990. https://catalyst.library.jhu.edu/catalog/bib_889258

Kastner, Joseph., Miriam T Gross, and Philip Pocock. The Bird Illustrated, 1550-1900: From the Collections of the New York Public Library. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1988. https://catalyst.library.jhu.edu/catalog/bib_1769033


JHU Special Collections Freshmen Fellowship - online exhibition on bird illustrations by Yuqi (Claudia) Zhang.