Cornell University, Albert R. Mann Library     Body of Owl Tail of Owl
The Psittacidae
Drawing from Life

Lear’s insistence on drawing from life was unusual. Most of his contemporaries worked from stuffed specimens; some, like Audubon, arranged and then drew the carcasses of freshly killed birds. Lear’s sketches from the Parrot House capture the birds preening, clowning, hanging upside down from their perches. His best illustrations go beyond accurate representation of a species; they are also portraits of individuals. The caricatures sketched in the margins of some of his drawings suggest that the artist often had an audience.

After sketching the living birds in pencil, Lear made studies in ink and watercolor, writing notes to himself in the margins, and testing colors.


Sketch from the Parrot House
This sketch is in the collection of Harvard University’s Houghton Library.


Study for Red and Yellow Macaw
One of Lear’s studies for the Red and Yellow Maccaw.
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