Dutch Aert Schouman’s eighteenth century bird, orangutan paintings


Sunbittern and secretary bird, 24 June 2017

As I wrote in another blog post, on 24 June 2017 we were at the exhibition in the Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht, the Netherlands of art by Aert Schouman (1710-1792). Founded in 1842, with that exhibition the museum celebrates its 175 years of age. Much of the paintings depict birds; like this African secretary bird on the right, and American sunbittern on the left. I saw beautiful sunbitterns in Costa Rica.

The photos in this blog post are cellphone photos.

Barn swallow and strawberry plant by Schouman

This is another one of Schouman’s many bird pictures at the exhibition: a barn swallow at a strawberry plant.

Orangutan, 24 June 2017

Schouman did not only paint birds. He also depicted this orangutan; featuring a golden pheasant and antelopes.

That ape was the first orangutan who ever went from Borneo to Europe, in 1776. To Prince William V’s private zoo, at the Kleine Loo estate near Voorburg town. Prince William’s servants had no idea how to care for the young female ape. They tried to feed the vegetarian meat. However, as the painting shows, the orangutan preferred apples.

Orangutan detail, 24 June 2017

The fruit turned out to be not enough for the primate to survive a Dutch winter. She died in January 1777, a few months after her arrival.

Southern bald ibis, 24 June 2017

Another animal which Schouman depicted for Prince William V was the southern bald ibis from southern Africa. The photo shows this bird species, copied by Simon Fokke from a big Schouman painting.

With this copy, we have arrived at the subject of the last part of the Schouman exhibition: his influence on other Dutch artists, especially in depicting birds.

Eclectus parrot, 24 June 2017

For instance, this 1767 painting by Gerrit van den Heuvel of a female eclectus parrot shows Schouman’s influence.

Dog and mallard, 24 June 2017

So does this painting of a dog disturbing a flying mallard, a grey heron and mute swans.

Whydahs and parrot, 24 June 2017

And this one, of two African birds: pin-tailed whydah on the left and queen whydah on the right. And below them, a Philippine hanging parrot.

Duck and dog, 24 June 2017

There is much action in Schouman’s bird pictures. That is reflected in this painting by Wouter Uiterlinninge: a dog attacks a domestic duck. In panic while fleeing, the bird tramples her own eggs, damaging them.

Children's art, 24 June 2017

In the last hall of the Schouman exhibition, children can make their own art inspired by birds. In this photo, centre bottom, two flamingos: a pink one, presumably adult. And a white one, presumably young. A child has put a red heart on that bird. A house martin flies toward the flamingos.

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