Owl and the Pussy Cat

The Aviary, submission for the Owl and the Pussy Cat public arts trail, Knowsley 2022

The Aviary

The Aviary design looks to depict the large collection of birds which the 13th Earl of Derby held within his menagerie. With over 300 species of rare and valuable birds his collection was considered one of the most extensive and impressive in Europe. During the 1850’s he commissioned the young Edward Lear to paint many of the birds, the exotic parrots in particular. 

The design uses a pea green backing tone relating to the boat from the Owl and the Pussy Cat poem. Equally, the colour green was a must have shade during the mid Victorian era. Partially due to candle light being replaced by gas burners allowing for the visual qualities of the colour to be viewed in a greater level. Secondly, a new tone of green had been developed in Germany by adding arsenic to colour pigment. This led to the poisoning of mainly production workers and by the 1870’s the process had been abandoned. However, green remained a fashionable Victorian shade which utilized pigments from safer sources.

The birds depicted on the design relate to the 318 species once reared at Knowsley Hall. Many of Lear’ illustrations are used as source material, others are images of species which were likely to be present within the collection. A focus has been taken on exotic birds, parrots in particular, located at pivotal points on the surface of the owl. A botanical illustration style has been adopted, realism core to the presentation. Often portrayed from a direct side elevation, semi-diagrammatic to convey a visual understanding from a natural history perspective.

Equally, the Aviary, relates to the contemporary Knowsley Safari Park which evolved from the much earlier menagerie. The birds of prey housed at the Safari Park could potentially be added to the design. Other aspects of environmental concern to identify with the decline of the Barn Owl with the region and the UK as a whole. This is mainly due to urbanisation and a reduction of grassland areas.

The Avery, a design which can delight, inform and bring splendor to the Borough of Knowsley.

Alison Little

Unfortunately, Alison was unsuccessful with her submission but will continue to apply for similar commissions.

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