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50x50cm ink, watercolour and metal leaf on birch panel, in a black matte tray frame.


Goldfinch: watercolour with gold leaf

I have been slightly fascinated by goldfinches since reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt some years ago. Last summer, I seemed to see more than usual and since then they have featured in my work.

Their song is described as a delightful liquid twittering.The collective name for goldfinches, a charm, is derived from the old English c’irm, describing the birds’ twittering song. Goldfinches were a symbol of fertility and resurrection, so appeared in medieval religious painting. 

European goldfinches have been introduced successfully to both Australia and New Zealand, while the old rural names including gold linnet, redcap and King Harry. One old name, thistle finch, reflects the bird’s favourite food.

The popularity of goldfinches as a caged bird in Victorian times led to huge numbers being trapped and a dramatic drop in the wild population. The numbers of finches caught in a year could be huge: in 1860, for example, 132,000 were reputed to have been taken at Worthing in Sussex.