Date of this Version
George M. Sutton's baby bird portraits are his most captivating works. The subjects are isolated against a stark, raw-paper background, and they stare out at the viewer with eyes typically naive but alert. Sutton's artistic mastery of the foot is integral to the underlying biology in these pictures: sturdy and sure against the table for a ruffed grouse, curled inward and near useless for a gallinule on dry land, and almost casually clutching a twig, the hallux resting loosely, for a newly-fledged grosbeak. The match between these pictures and Paul Johnsgard's text is perfect. In his first two paragraphs, Johnsgard gives us a small taste of what it is like handling almost sacred materials (in this case the watercolors) in the hidden depths of a major museum's most secure rooms. And throughout the text, Johnsgard seems to respect the paintings as much as the birds themselves. Few other writers could bring such a breadth of literary and artistic experience to the task of making "Doc" Sutton's work available, in a very special way, to the general public.