Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1980 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hughes, Pamela (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case MP, shelf 55, box A

This print is from a collelction of images of owls amassed by the poet and scholar Walter strachan (1903-1994). It is typical of the wood-engravings produced by print-maker and painter Pamela Hughes (1918-2002). She was noted for her use of pattern, texture and white line and exploited this in her many monoprint wood-engravings and vinyl cuts. Nature, and especially birds, feature heavily in her work.

Pamela Hughes sketched from life then transferred her image as a white drawing on black before making the wood-engraving or vinyl cut. In wood engraving the design that is to be printed is made on a block of wood such as box. The design is then cut into the wood, across rather than along the grain. A block cut in this way has the advantage that it is less likely to splinter and can be cut cleanly with equal pressure in all directions. It can be worked very finely and more delicate effects are achieved. The block is then inked and the image printed on the paper. The fine lines cut into the wood are beneath the surface which carries the ink, and they therefore print white. The technique is sometimes known as the 'white line method'. Pamela Hughes did not have a printing press so her work was burnished onto the paper.

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

Black and white image of an owl on a branch of a fir tree. Moonlight and a white sky are visible in the background top left. Otherwise the background is dark, comprising of a forest of fir trees. Stylized foliage and trunk of the fir tree frames the image to the right and top. This image may be a wood-engraving or in scraperboard.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (probably, made)


ca. 1980 (made)


Hughes, Pamela (artist)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

'P. Hughes'
Artist signature in pencil, lower right.

Inscribed in pencil lower right.

'"Owl" / Engraved by Pamela Hughes'
Text printed on back, lower centre.

'from Nan Youngman July 20 1982'
Inscribed in ink on separate strip of paper accompanying object.


Height: 14.3 cm, Width: 9.1 cm

Object history note

This forms part of a collection of prints, drawings and paintings of owls bequeathed to the V&A by Walter Strachan (1903-1994). 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

Wood-engraving, owl, by Pamela Hughes, ca. 1980.

Production Note

Reason For Production: Private


Ink; Paper



Subjects depicted

Moon; Fir; Owl; Woodland


Drawings; Images Online

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.