Renowned B.C. bird artist and author James Fenwick Lansdowne dies at 71

James Fenwick Lansdowne, one of Canada's renowned wildlife artists whose works have been exhibited around the world, has died. He was 71.

James Fenwick Lansdowne, one of Canada's renowned wildlife artists whose works have been exhibited around the world, has died. He was 71.

His family says Lansdowne died in Victoria on July 26.

Born in 1937 to British parents in Hong Kong and raised in Victoria, Lansdowne was taught to paint by his mother, an accomplished artist trained in traditional Chinese watercolour techniques. His family moved to Canada at the end of the Second World War.

Lansdowne's works were exhibited regularly around the world since his first show at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1956, when he was 19. Some of the museums include the Tryon Gallery, London, the Natural History Museum, Beijing, and the Smithsonian, Audubon House and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in the U.S.

Art critics have compared him to famous 19th-century wildlife artist John James Audubon. They consider his technical ability to reproduce a bird in paint outstanding.

After visiting one of Lansdowne's first exhibits, John A. Livingston, the former executive director of the Audubon Society of Canada, was quoted in 1964 as saying the artist "has achieved the most remarkable wedding of scientific truth and artistic feeling I have ever seen."

Lansdowne's bird paintings have appreciated in value from his early days when he used to sell them to family and friends for $1.50 apiece. Individual works now fetch several thousand dollars.

One of his more recent projects, Rare Birds of China, was available for $25,000 for a set of 32 prints.

It was commissioned in 1984 as a unique record of China's rare and endangered birds. The project took 10 years to complete, during which Lansdowne travelled extensively in China, visiting museums and observing birds in zoos and in their natural habitat. A number of museums around the world provided him with advice and assistance for the project, which was accompanied by a book.

In Canada, he is best known to the public for his five-volume large format series of books containing representations of many of the country's birds.

Lansdowne was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. 

In the introduction to one of Fenwick's works, Birds of the West Coast, Volume 2, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, writes that any bird-watcher knows that magic moment when a long sought bird is finally seen in its characteristic setting. 

Lansdowne "has the exceptional ability to capture such moments with a seemingly effortless assurance but which can only come from intimate knowledge, immense care and remarkable talent," Prince Philip writes.

Lansdowne is survived by his wife, Helen, son, Tristram, and daughter, Emma.