Neville Cayley arrived in Australia from England in 1885 with a well-established reputation as a bird painter and is not to be confused with his son of the same name who wrote and illustrated What bird is that? Painted six years after his arrival in Australia Cayley’s large and beautifully rendered watercolour Australian gamebirds was intended to demonstrate to an Australian audience his appreciation of native bird life, as well as his competence as a watercolourist. The exquisite detail of the rendering belies the fact that this carefully arranged pile of birds was slaughtered for the sake of art. Exotic specimens they are resplendent against an empty backdrop.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010