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Cayley & Son

Chris Merkord
  • The Life and Art of Neville Henry Cayley and Neville William Cayley Olsen, Penny National Library of Australia 2013 Australia http://publishing.nla.gov.au/book/cayley-and-son.do English , Australasian, , Australia, No value 03/01/2013 9780642277893 No value

Cayley & Son charts the lives and works of Australian bird artists Neville Henry Cayley (1854–1903) and his son Neville William (1886–1950). Peripatetic, often impecunious, and with a reputation for hard drinking, Neville Henry was a nevertheless a highly talented artist, whose dreams of publishing a ‘big bird book’ — a comprehensive publication on Australian birds — never came to fruition. His son Neville William was also a keen artist. ‘Buoyant’ in personality, sometimes outspoken and argumentative, he was a pioneer of the surf lifesaving movement before turning his attention to the painting of birds. Taking a more scientific approach than his father, he was to complete the classic field guide known to bird enthusiasts throughout Australia: What Bird Is That?.


From the depictions of gamebirds in Neville Henry’s work, to his son’s focus on conservation and education, the history of the two men is also a social history of Australia, and their work can be read as a barometer of changing attitudes to wildlife and its conservation.


Cayley & Son features a biographical essay on each of the two men, followed by a portfolio of their paintings. With over 100 colour plates of works from the collections of the National Library of Australia, it is a book for art- and bird-lovers alike.

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