Henrik Gronvold, the Danish naturalist and artist was born in 1858. From an early age, Henrik Gronvold developed an interest in natural history and would spend his time drawing the birds and animals around him. After studying drawing in Copenhagen he went on to work as a draughtsman for the Danish artillery from 1880.
In 1892, Gronvold left his native country for America. He travelled via England and by chance found employment at the Natural History Museum, London, preparing bird skeletons. He soon became a skilled taxidermist whilst also quickly establishing a reputation as an artist. Gronvold worked at the Museum for a few years before leaving to accompany William Ogilvie-Grant (1863-1924) on his expedition to the Savage Islands in 1895. On his return, Gronvold continued to work at the Museum in an unofficial capacity as an artist for many more years.
By the end of the nineteenth century Gronvold’s illustrations were appearing in numerous scientific publications including the Proceedings and Transactions of the Zoological Society, Ibis and the Avicultural Magazine for whom he draw plates for G. A. Boulenger (1858-1937), William Ogilvie-Grant, Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas (1858-1929) and C. I. Forsyth (1843-1923) among others. Gronvold also completed numerous plates for Lord Rothschild, many of which appeared in Rothschild’s journal Novitates Zoologicae. Gronvold also produced many plates of bird eggs, which were quite unusual and rarely featured in early bird books. Some of these plates included those of the eggs of the Great Auk that he completed for the English zoologist Professor Alfred Newton (1829-1907).
Gronvold also illustrated Captain George Shelley’s Birds of Africa, completing 57 plates of many species that had not been illustrated before. Other publications that featured Gronvold’s work include W. L. Buller’s The Birds of New Zealand, Brabourne’s Birds of South America, McConnell’s Birds of British Guiana and H. K. Swann’s A Monograph of the Birds of Prey (1930-45). He also completed 600 hand-coloured plates for twelve volumes of The Birds of Australia (1910-27) for the wealthy Australian Gregory Macalister Mathews (1876-1949) for which J. G. Kuelemans also contributed. Gronvold subsequently provided numerous illustrations for Mathews’ The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands … (1928) and A Supplement to The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands … (1936) – some of the last publications that were issued with hand-coloured plates.
Such was his contributions to bird art that a Mirafara lark
was named for him in 1930. Gronvold died at Bedford in 1940.
Although Henrik Gronvold was known mainly for his bird and egg illustrations, he occasionally illustrated mammals, namely apes. He illustrated Lord Rothschild’s paper titled ‘Notes to anthropoid apes’ (1904). This painting of a silver-backed gorilla is therefore a rare example of his work using oils. It is also interesting that it features a forest background as the majority of his illustrations were solely of the subject.
This painting was bequeathed by Lord Rothschild in 1937, along with his extensive zoological collections.
Thackray, J. C. A. (1995) A catalogue of portraits, paintings and sculpture at the Natural History Museum, London. Mansell: London. 70pp.
Jackson, C. E. (1999) Dictionary of Bird Artists of the World. Antique Collectors’ Club: Woodbridge, Suffolk. 550pp.
Matthews, G. M. (1910-1927) Birds of Australia. 12 vols.
Rothschild, L. W. (1904) Notes on anthropoid apes. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, (II), pp. 413-440, Pl. 24.
Skipworth, Peyton (1979) The Great Bird Illustrators
and their Art 1730-1930. Hamlyn: London; New York; Sydney;