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  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1993 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cullen, Patrick (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 6, box E

Patrick Cullen had beena pupil of the poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903-1994) at Bishop's Stortford College in the 1940s. He presented this owl to Strachan at a lunch for former pupils, to mark Strachan's 90th birthday in January 1993.

Strachan was fascinated by the art of the book. His interest was inspired by a visit to an exhibition of artists’ books at the National Gallery in London in May 1945. In due course he wrote many articles on the subject, as well as a major reference work, The Artist and the Book in France (published 1969); he also encouraged successive Keepers of the National Art Library at the V&A “to buy them for England.” To this end he visited France every year, to meet the artists, and acquired proof pages to illustrate his articles and to show to potential purchasers of the books, including the V&A. Over the years he amassed a collection of images of owls; some of these were illustrations from livres d’artistes, and others were designed especially for him as gifts or greetings. The collection of owls began with a visit to the artist Roger Chastel (1897-1981) in 1952, where he witnessed the printing of Le Bestiaire de Paul Eluard. In a subsequent article (“Genesis and Growth of a Collection”, for Connoisseur, 1972) he explained: “My article on Chastel’s Bestiaire had the happy result of bringing me a special print on Auvergne paper of the owl which I had admired in the book. Contacts in the art-world of Paris are close and friendly, and I was marked down as an owl-man, in consequence of which I have gradually been given dedicated owl prints and originals in every medium from pen and ink to enamel…”

Physical description

Calligraphy in ink on paper of extracts of poetry in English, French and German. These are written to form the image of an owl.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)


ca. 1993 (made)


Cullen, Patrick (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'for Walter / on the occasion of his / 90th Birthday'
Inscribed in ink, across top left corner / top centre / across top right corner.

'Well remembered Lines from a Personal Anthology inspired by W.J.S.'
Inscribed in ink in an arc above the owl's head.


Height: 41.2 cm, Width: 29.6 cm

Object history note

90th birthday greeting from Pierre Lecuire toWalter Strachan (1903-1994). This forms part of a collection of prints, drawings and paintings of owls bequeathed to the V&A by Walter Strachan. Strachan, a scholar and collector of Livres d'Artistes, became friendly with a large number of artists, who, on hearing that he had a fondness for owls, began sending him images to add to his collection.

Descriptive line

Calligraphed drawing, owl formed from poetry, by Pierre Lecuire, 1993.

Production Note

Reason For Production: Private


Pen and ink; Paper



Subjects depicted

Calligraphy; Owl


Drawings; Greeting cards; Images Online; Calligraphy

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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