I last told you how Winslow Homer painted a dying Goldeneye duck. He wasn’t the only painter inspired by dead birds.
A month later, I was back at the National Gallery for a Lucien Freud show. He is chiefly famous for his portraits and his nudes, but there amongst his early work was this heraldic Dead Heron (1945) (and yes, it was hung this way up):
It may look like a 3-D collage, but it is just paint. The details of the feathers are marvellous:
Sad though a dead heron is, somehow the care Freud has taken is a way of honouring it.
As luck would have it, two days earlier I had been to the London Wetland Centre (wonderful place) to look for water birds, and there was a real and very much alive Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, flaunting his overlapping layers of grayish wing feathers
His long neck was all curled up, and his head was tucked in, and his black topknot and epaulets were blowing in the breeze:
He is nearly as big as the North American Great Blue Heron, but not quite.
Around him there were coots, teal, and a brave crow taking a running jump off a rock for its morning ablutions:
He almost completely immersed himself and had a good splash :
and emerged sparkling and refreshed.
Even London pigeons in Hyde Park take an early bath.
Birds don’t have to be rare to make me smile, but it certainly helps if they are alive.
PS Researchers recently published a study in Science showing that seeing birds makes people happy. I can confirm that.