Strachan, Walter J. Graphic owls from France: variations on a theme in an English private collection. Connoisseur. Aug. 1972. pp.240-247.
Referred to on p. 246. Illustrated on p. 245.
Strachan, Walter J. Only connect ... poets, painters, sculptors: friendships and shared passions 1924-1994. Jon Carpenter Publishing, 2004.
Illustrated on p. 110.
Pen and wash drawing, man and owl, by Albert Flocon, 1962.
Height: 31.5 cm, Width: 24.8 cm
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
This forms part of a collection of prints, drawings and paintings of owls bequeathed to the V&A by Walter Strachan (1903-1994). Strachan, a scholar and collector of Livres d'Artistes, became friendly with a large number of artists, who, on hearing that he had a fondness for owls, began sending him images to add to his collection.
Pen and wash drawing on a page torn out of a spiral bound notebook. It shows a man and an owl. The man is sitting on the left. The owl is on a pillar to the right and is wearing spectacles. To the left of the image is a humourous note 1. ? Athenas ferre. / 2. Coals to Newcastle. / 3. Hibous à Strachan (Owls to [Walter] Strachan), referring to his growing colleciton of images of owls.
Painter and Bauhaus professor Albert Flocon (born 1909) sent this playful note showing an owl wearing spectacles to the poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903-1994). It is part of a collection of images of owls which he amassed. Strachan also owned several books by Flocon, who is known for his writings on experimental perspective, which he illustrated himself. His most famous book is Perspectives (1948), which had the distinction of having poems written for the illustrations, rather than the other way round. The poems were by Paul Eluard (1895-1952).
Strachan was fascinated by the art of the book. His interest was inspired by a visit to an exhibition of artists’ books at the National Gallery in London in May 1945. In due course he wrote many articles on the subject, as well as a major reference work, The Artist and the Book in France (published 1969); he also encouraged successive Keepers of the National Art Library at the V&A “to buy them for England.” To this end he visited France every year, to meet the artists, and acquired proof pages to illustrate his articles and to show to potential purchasers of the books, including the V&A. Over the years he amassed a collection of images of owls; some of these were illustrations from livres d’artistes, and others were designed especially for him as gifts or greetings. The collection of owls began with a visit to the artist Roger Chastel (1897-1981) in 1952, where he witnessed the printing of Le Bestiaire de Paul Eluard. In a subsequent article (“Genesis and Growth of a Collection”, for Connoisseur, 1972) he explained: “My article on Chastel’s Bestiaire had the happy result of bringing me a special print on Auvergne paper of the owl which I had admired in the book. Contacts in the art-world of Paris are close and friendly, and I was marked down as an owl-man, in consequence of which I have gradually been given dedicated owl prints and originals in every medium from pen and ink to enamel…”