Ornithoptera Series


More about the Paintings

Superficially the paintings describe the rare Birdwing, or Ornithoptera, butterflies of tropical New Guinea. but, as most of them fly above the treetops, I am really concerned to paint the canopy of the forest on which they depend. For me the leaf structures, patterning, colour and surface quality are of the greatest importance.

For the past thirty years I have been interested in plant structures and growth patterns and recently spent a fair bit of time studying and photographing tropical plants and leaves in Borneo and Malaysia. I have occasionally painted from photographs but I prefer to design imagined leaf structures knowing that somewhere in the jungle canopy there is probably a tree that looks like my invention. I have only once tried to paint the Aristolocia vines on which the ornithoptera caterpillars feed.

I paint with acrylic on 1/8 inch birch ply. With some works I include pieces of local wood, with others pieces of recycled tropical hardwoods. My intention is to ask,“ When, under what circumstances, and for what purposes should tropical and temperate woods be used?”

At present I am completing 4 different series each depicting the 11 recognized species, and some subspecies, of Ornithoptera Butterflies.

Ornithoptera Urvillianus

(Priamus Urvillianus)

D’Urville’s Birdwing

These butterflies are found on New Ireland and the Solomon Islands.
In the recent past D’urville’s Birdwing, with the dark blue male, was considered a distinct species. However it has now been proved to be a subspecies of Priamus by cross breeding with a second sub species and producing fertile offspring.

Urvillianus was first named by J. Dumont d’Urville who collected a specimen early in the Nineteenth century.

It is a large butterfly but is apparently being farmed in the Solomons and is therefore not considered threatened.

The Priamus Caelestis is another priamus subspecies with a colouration toward the blue, although the males are more of a pale turquoise. I suppose the English name of that butterfly would be ‘Heavenly Birdwing’.

  • The males have a wingspan of up to 16 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan of up to 20 cm.
Ornithoptera urvillianus
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Acrylic on birch ply & paduak

h 16” w 27.5”
40cm x 69.5cm