This post about David Morrison Reid-Henry (1919 – 1977) is one of a series of short biographies about artists and writers inspired by Nature and the Countryside and whose works have fostered my own love of the Countryside – especially Birds.
David Morrison Reid-Henry (1919 – 1977) was a professional artist and illustrator of birds. He signed his pictures DM Henry or D.M.H. He was the son of entomologist and ornithologist George Morrison Reid Henry and Olive Hobday and had an elder brother, Bruce Charles Reid Henry.
Some of his best work is to be found in the many books by Dr D. A. Bannerman – Birds of Cyprus, Birds of the Atlantic Islands and many others including ‘The History of the Birds of Britain by Colin Harrison’.
He was a perfectionist and unless he felt his paintings were beyond criticism he would never submit them. It is only fair to say that he had a typical artist’s tempera-ment, and if he was not in the mood for painting nothing would make him do so: books were sometimes delayed because plates had not been finished.
George Lodge was David’s mentor – Eric Hosking one of the great wildlife photographers wrote in his obituary – ‘one day in 1951 I drove him to have tea with the great artist at his home in Camberley. It was about the only occasion that I can ever remember David being subdued —as they discussed the various merits of water-colour, oil and gouache’.
Apart from guidance given to him by Lodge, and particularly by his father, David received no art training at all. In his turn, however, he freely gave his help to young artists who approached him and who showed a willingness and ability to profit from his advice. It is interesting to note, in passing, that in later years father and son occasionally worked together on the same picture, his father painting the birds and David adding the detailed landscape.
Eric Hosking went on to write – ‘he was much better at painting a bird in its natural habitat than doing multiple plates of ten or more species for a field guide, although those that he did for The Popular Handbook of Rarer British Birds by P. A. D. Hollom (1960) were lovely, since he was able to confine himself to single species, showing the sex and age differences.
He was so good at painting landscapes, even including microscopic detail of moss and lichen on the rocks, that I have even heard the opinion expressed that they were better than his bird paintings’.
A good example of this is in the header picture of a Chaffinch in my post of ‘The Art of the Postcard’.
As time went by, David became more and more disenchanted with this country, and was vitriolic in his comments about the Government’s attitude towards Rhodesia, a country he knew well and whose people he loved. So, in 1973, he packed his bags, emigrated there and, in the following year, took out citizenship. This was to be the happiest time of his life and he painted harder than ever. It seems so tragic that he could not have been spared a little longer – he died in Rhodesia in 1977.
The header picture is entitled ‘TEAL IN HARD WEATHER’ Signed, watercolour.