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  • Date:

    1960-1970 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Spitzer, Walter, born 14 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-coloured etching and aquatint on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Walter Spitzer (born 1927) was a printer and painter who continually alternated between the two media and this is shown by the range of techniques used in the images of owls which he gave to poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903-1994). He was known for his skill with colour, which he used quite vividly.

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

Hand-coloured etching and aquatint on paper of an owl. The owl is large and sits on a thin branch which runs horizontal across the bottom. The owl is painted in greens and oranges and the background is of speckled grey.


1960-1970 (made)


Spitzer, Walter, born 14 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-coloured etching and aquatint on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'W. Spitzer'
Artist signature in pencil, lower right.

Inscribed in pencil, lower left.

'Pour Monsieur W.J. Strachan qui aime les hibous / Je dedie cette gravure.'
Inscribed in pencil, lower centre.


Height: 44.5 cm plate size, Width: 34.7 cm plate size, Height: 65.5 cm sheet size, Width: 49.5 cm sheet size

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

Hand-coloured etching and aquatint, owl, by Walter Spitzer, 1960-1970.




Etching (printing process); Aquatint; Hand-colouring

Subjects depicted



Images Online; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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