Arts & Culture

The Work of Mark Catesby

When the English naturalist and artist Mark Catesby traveled to the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas in the early eighteenth century, he observed creatures that his colleagues back home had never even dreamed of. On a four-year mission to survey North American wildlife, he paddled a canoe along rivers and tramped through Lowcountry forests, diligently documenting what he saw in detailed watercolor brushstrokes. His paintings capture the brilliant plumes of a “Summer Duck” (wood duck), the spiky fins on a porgy, and the sunburst orange feathers of the now-extinct Carolina parakeet sitting atop a cypress branch.

Nearly three centuries later, forty-four of his paintings are now on display at the Gibbes in the exhibition Artist, Scientist, Explorer: Mark Catesby in the Carolinas, which runs through September 24. The pieces traveled on loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s British Royal Collection, marking their first viewing in Charleston and only the second time the masterworks have been shown in the United States.

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