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Birds in insular art

Object number: ROMGH.1999.15

Type: Sketch

Material: Paper, Pen and ink

Width: 20.2cm | Height: 25.4cm

Production date: 1920 - 1945

 Yes you can     No you cannot
Use the same Celtic patterns in your art and craft work Yes
Use this design for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Commercially reproduce this object without the permission of the Copyright holder No

Here, Bain collects examples of birds from across early medieval insular art onto poor quality, thin paper. They are taken from manuscripts, incised or sculpted stone slabs and metalwork. All are from Scotland, Ireland or Northumbria. His notes show he’s working out comparisons across art forms and countries. This approach became key to his presentation of Celtic art.

HIs notes open a window on his studies. A looping arrow, with the command ‘compare’, links birds from the Book of Kells and a Pictish sculpted stone from Meigle in Perthshire. A remark on the left side compares a panel in the Psalter of St John with ones in the Gospels of MacDurnan. Bain’s wonder at the intricacy of insular art is literally underlined in his annotation bottom right. With his drawing of a detail from the Tara brooch he records ‘much enlarged’.

George Bain’s research eventually resulted in his book Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction. It was published by William Macllellan, the Glasgow publisher, in 1951. The book brings together his successful series of six booklets on the different Celtic art styles, first printed in 1944.

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 111 Plate 5

Author: Jo Clements

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