The words bird fancy with images of birds sitting on or in the letters.

Bird fancy

The Turnbull collections are rich in bird illustrations, and this exhibition shows the work of four artists who took birds as their subject.

From 10 April 2019 to 10 Sept 2019 | 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday | 9am to 1pm Saturday | Ground floor, Te Puna Foundation Gallery

A room full of bright feathers

Come and see gorgeous birds painted in the 18th and 19th centuries; the works of William Ellis, George Raper, John Backhouse and those attributed to Gustavus von Tempsky.

Painting of a queen curassow.
The Queen Curassow, 3 October 1856, Attributed to Gustavus von Tempsky, Ref: A-198-038, Alexander Turnbull Library.

William Ellis and George Raper

William Ellis and George Raper painted during the 18th century, the age of European exploration and its associated systematic description of the natural world.

Ellis sailed with Captain Cook on his final voyage and Raper with the First Fleet to Australia; both recorded what they saw.

Gustavus von Tempsky and John Backhouse

Gustavus von Tempsky was an adventurer in the 19th century at a time when exploration had led to contested settlement.

Von Tempsky and John Backhouse both served with the colonial forces in the New Zealand Wars.

Bird Fancy?

The title of the exhibition 'Bird Fancy' refers to both the keeping of birds and to the exotic nature of this selection.

The exhibition is not about New Zealand birds, though some are shown, but they have an implied presence within the broader aim of the exhibition, which is to consider the challenge of preserving the habitat of both birds and people.

Hear the cry of a Toucan

Ever wondered what a Toucan sounded like. Here's a description by Charles Bell, Gustavus von Tempskys brother-in-law. Come to the exhibition and hear a Toucan.

The cry of the toucan is loud and in a high key, but plaintive, liquid and musical. It resembles the words peeakos — tulluk tulluk. Consequently, the Indians … call this bird ‘peeakos.’ The toucans go in flocks of ten to fifteen. They are active and lively in hopping about the branches, but slow and heavy in flight.

Painting of a Toucan
Piacos or toucan, 1856 Attributed to Gustavus von Tempsky Ref: A-198-027 Alexander Turnbull Library.

All the images in this exhibition are copies printed from digital scans of original artworks.