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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lars Jonsson's wonderful birds, 2 Dec 2010
This review is from: Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon (Hardcover)
Lars Jonsson is a Swedish painter and amateur naturalist who illustrated several field guides to European birds. Actually, to call Jonsson an "amateur" naturalist feels somewhat ridiculous, since he probably spent more time in the field than most scientists!

This book is an excellent introduction to Jonsson and his art for the American public. Jonsson has always been something of a natural. At the age of seven, his parents submitted one of his works to a children's art competition. They were accused of fraud! The jury didn't believe that the drawing was made by a child. Jonsson had his first exhibit at the age of 15, at the Museum of Natural History in Stockholm (the capital of Sweden). He also illustrated a membership bulletin for a young naturalists' association. Curiously, at the age of 20, Jonsson's application to the Academy of Arts was rejected! But perhaps that's the fate of all great artists?

Perhaps it was just as well. Instead of lingering at the Academy, Jonsson took a trip to the island of Gotland in the Baltic sea, and realized that all field guides to birds were seriously flawed. None of them showed waders in juvenile plumage, despite the fact that such waders are the most common in real life. This would have been around 1971. Jonsson spent the next years working on a five-volume series of new field guides to European birds, which he both wrote and illustrated. They have become classics, and have even been translated into English. As a kid, my father bought me one of them, ironically at the Museum of Natural History. Much later, Jonsson also published a one-volume field guide, "Birds of Europe", based on the five-volume series. By that time, he had moved to Gotland, where he owns a small private museum exhibiting his paintings. He has received the prestigious Master Wildlife Artist Award, and some younger painters apparently try to imitate him and "the Lars Jonsson look".

"Lars Jonsson's Birds" contains a representative selection of Jonsson's art, plus short commentaries by the artist himself. The earliest work is the funniest: a very bad drawing of a sparrow made by Jonsson at the age of four. It looks like a parrot. Well, it's good to know that Jonsson wasn't a prodigy when he was *that* young! All the other works are serious, and include watercolors, oil paintings, illustrations from the field guides, and lithographs. Most paintings show birds (naturally), but some orchids and other flowery plants are included, plus a self-portrait and a portrait of Jonsson's brother. There is also a curious photo of Jonsson somewhere in Arabia, looking at a gull caught by his guides. And then there are eiders, eiders, eiders... Jonsson seems to be down right obsessed by eiders! (The eider is a large, black and white duck living on seashores.)

What always struck people about Jonsson's bird paintings is that they are very realistic. This is true even of the somewhat standardized illustrations in the field guides. Jonsson manages to capture the individual character of each bird. The paintings and illustrations in this book cover a whole range of different bird species, but my favourites are the gyrfalcons. They look almost magical. But there does seem to be three kinds of birds not even Jonsson can paint properly: magpies, crows and jays. I'm an unofficial corvid aficionado, and I can't say the magpies and crows in this book touched me. (The jays in his field guides are even worse - and jays have personality!)

But that's a very minor complaint against a great artist. If you are a lover of great art, birds, or both, I recommend "Lars Jonsson's birds". In fact, I even recommend his one-volume field guide "Birds of Europe". I don't think you should use it in the field, though. Both books are for the coffee table.

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lars Jonsson's Birds, 10 July 2011
This review is from: Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon (Hardcover)
A lovely book if you admire the bird paintings of Lars Jonsson, as I do. Printed on good quality paper. A book to treasure. Very inspiring for the "would be" bird artist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 14 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon (Hardcover)
A wonderful book - quite a lot of information about Lars Jonsson, as well as fantastic pictures. Any fan of Lars Jonsson will love it.
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Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon
Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon by Lars Jonsson (Hardcover - 30 Nov 2008)
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