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 Rothschildi

Rothschild’s Birdwing

Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild financed many of the late Victorian scientific expeditions to the Australasia region and this butterfly was named by its discoverer, Alfred Stewart Meek, for his benefactor.

Rothschild’s Birdwing has the smallest distribution of any birdwing butterfly and is found in northeastern Iran Jaya in sunny, wind sheltered, ravines above the 2000 meter level.

  • The males have a wingspan of up to 13 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan of up to 15.5 cm.

It is classified as indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’.

Rothschildi male & female
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Acrylic on birch ply & elm

h 24" x w 25.5"
61 cm x 65 cm