Date of this Version
Janovy, book review of Baby Bird Portraits by George Miksch Sutton: Watercolors in the Field Museum, by P. A. Johnsgard (1998), from Nebraska Bird Review (September 1998) 66(3).
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.