Orenco Originals for the Artful Needleworker !



 Ring-necked Pheasant by Archibald Thorburn c.1890


Archibald Thorburn, 1860-1935, was a Scottish artist known for his watercolors of birds and animals in their natural environments. Thorburn was born in Edinburgh Scotland in 1860.  He was the fifth son of Robert Thorburn, who was THE miniaturist painter to Queen Victoria. He was raised in an upper middle-class family of artist, naturalists, and outdoorsmen.

Thorburn loved the outdoors and paid attention and painted to the details that he saw in nature. When he was a boy Archibald showed an interest sketching animals and particularly birds, often sketching his adventures, he showed a talent in both pen and ink and water colored his sketches.

Illustration by Archibald Thorburn 

Archibald’s first bird illustrations were published when he was 22 years old, in J.E. Harting’s Sketches of Bird Life. Five years later he was invited to illustrate for Lord Lilford the Coloured Figures of Birds in the British Isles, which was published in 1888 to rave reviews. “Never before have such beautiful plates of birds been seen, and the success of his Lordships’ volumes seems firmly assured”.

The Peacock and the Butterfly by Archibald Thorburn

Thorburn often recalled the debt he owed his father ( a miniature artist), particularly his insistence upon perfection in all aspects of art and although he attended art school for a time and took lessons from Joseph Wolf, RI (1820-1899) an artist that Thorburn rated the “finest bird and animal draughtsman of all time”, he never failed to acknowledge the patience and devotion of his father’s teaching.

Following his father’s death in 1885, Thorburn moved south to London residing at several addresses there before moving to Hascombe in Surrey in 1902, where he was to live and work for the rest of his life. In 1896 he married Constance Mudie they had one son, Philip.

Swan Mother and Baby by Archibald Thorburn

At Hascombe, surrounded by some of the most beautiful woodland in the country, Thorburn found himself amid an abundance of the creatures he loved to sketch and paint. Here most of his pheasant and woodcock pictures were painted as well as those of mice and hedgehogs and host of small birds that dwelt in the surrounding countryside. At least once a year he returned to the Highlands of Scotland to paint. There amid the desolation and remoteness of Inverness-shire and other favorite haunts, he would replenish his sketchbooks with sketches of hare, red deer, ptarmigan, birds and eagles.

Monarch of the Glen Stag by Archibald Thorburn


Archibald Thorburn life was centered around his love of the outdoors. He was an avid sportsman, regularly finding himself as an invited guest at shooting parties on estates in both Scotland and England, including Sandringham at the invitation of the King, to shoot and paint. However, as he aged he became a conservationist, having hung up his gun for good on wounding a hare and hearing its pitiful squeals in the early years of the century. In 1927 he was elected Vice President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in recognition of his services on behalf of bird presentation.

Black Grouse by Archibald Thorburn

Thorburn exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and illustrated the first Christmas card by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1899. Between then and 1935, he illustrated 19 of their Christmas cards and donated them to the Society.

Tit on a Gorss Bush by Archibald Thorburn


From his earliest days of fame in the late 1880s Thorburn’s renderings of game birds have remained extremely popular and much sought after around the world. As a young man his ability to capture the mood of a place and the stance of flight of black-game, pheasant or partridge was quickly acknowledged. While his father Robert Thorburn had painted for Queen Victoria, Archibald in turn became a great favorite of both King Edward VII and King George V who particularly admired his skills at portraying sporting scenes at Sandringham and elsewhere.

Gathering of Pheasants by Archibald Thorburn

Archibald Thorburn lived at High Leybourne in Hascombe. In 1930 it was reported “Mr. Thorburn, the well-known Surrey naturalist and bird artist, steadfastly refuses to install electricity at his lovely home in Hascombe. As a painter he relies solely on natural light, working long hours indeed in the summer months but much shorter ones during the brief days of winter. Just occasionally he resorts to the use of his oil lamps, especially if drawing mice in the dimness of his garden shed.”

Mice and Tree Squirrel by Archibald Thorburn

Archibald Thorburn lived out a peaceful and largely uneventful life quietly recording for us scenes of our wildlife set amongst the countryside of the time. He was a quiet, helpful, generous man, shy and unassuming almost to the extreme. A tall, distinguished looking gentleman with white beard and hair and twinkling blue eyes, he was a much-loved sight in the village of Hascombe, where just occasionally he could be coaxed to the village school there to draw birds upon the blackboard with breathtaking ability to the wonder of children and teachers alike.

Snipe by Archibald Thorburn

Archibald Thorburn died at High Leybourne in October 1935 and is buried in Busbridge churchyard.

A century later, we still use his plates for identification purposes, some originally drawn for Lilford. Buyers today of the Observer Book of British Birds are seldom aware that many of the illustration are those painted by Archibald Thorburn, some hundred years earlier. We can buy “The Observers Book of British Birds” or “Thorburn’s Birds” from our nearest bookshop. A true reflection of the accuracy and timelessness of Archibald Thorburn’s work.

Bullfinches by Archibald Thorburn

Today, Archibald Thorburn’s works are held in the collections throughout the world.

An outstanding collection of works by Archibald Thorburn sold for fantastic prices in the 19th Century Paintings auction at Bonhams New Bond Street July 14, 2011.

A new world record for the artist was made with the highlight of the collection - the magnificent Peacock and Peacock Butterfly fetched £252,000 ($402,782), more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of £80,000-120,000.

 Ring-necked Pheasant in Flight by Archibald Thorburn c.1890

The previous record for a Thorburn work was £217,250 for Grouse in Flight which sold at Christie's in June 2010.