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Lars Jonsson

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Biography

Widely regarded as the greatest living bird artist, Lars Jonsson was born in Sweden in 1952.  Jonsson, also a globally-renowned ornithologist, has been painting professionally for over thirty years, since his series of European bird guides in the 1970s established him both as an artist and a bird expert.  Stemming from a lifelong interest in field identification, Jonsson’s work has been compared with that of masters like Bruno Liljefors and Louis Agassiz Fuertes.  Jonsson’s interest in birds and painting began as a boy on Gotland, an island in the Baltic where he would spend summers with his parents.  His talent was very quickly noticed; Jonsson’s first exhibit took place at the Swedish Museum of Natural History when he was fifteen years old.  Self-taught as a painter, Jonsson eschewed formal art training for a hands-on education: a trip through the Sahara to west Africa, an experience which began decades of traveling and writing.  He has since traveled and painted throughout the world, including Bahrain, Siberia, Greece, Spain, and across North America. 

Making use of a telescope as much as brush and paint, Jonsson explores the relationship between wildlife and the places they inhabit.  Jonsson’s paintings reveal a remarkable array of stylistic elements:  a sublime sense of composition, masterful technique, and a shrewd and subtle understanding of natural color tones.  Because of these, Jonsson has been described as not simply a wildlife artist, but as an artist who has chosen to paint wildlife.  Working in a wide spectrum of styles, from tight, near photorealistic oils to looser, almost impressionistic watercolors, Jonsson precisely captures the attitude of his subjects.  Seasonal plumage, wind direction, individual variances within bird species: all find subtle and sensitive treatment in a Jonsson painting.  This subtlety and sensitivity are intimately linked to what Jonsson describes as the driving force behind his urge to paint - birds and their environments.

I can feel a strong primitive attraction towards painting, towards creating a feeling of truth.  Maybe it is faithfulness to nature that I am seeking.  The feeling of clear vision, the order of things, a “this-is-the-way-it-is” feeling.  The inspiration is nature: it is therein that I look for an answer.

                                                                           Lars Jonsson

Jonsson was designated Master Wildlife Artist by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in 1988.  His books include Bird Island (1983), Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East (1992) and Birds and Light (2002).  His paintings have also been featured in Masterpieces of Bird Art (1991) and part of the renowned annual exhibit Birds in Art since 1982.  Jonsson’s works are in the collections of the Massachusetts Audubon Society Visual Arts Center, the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming; and the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Publications