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  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    20th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Passavant Madame (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil drawing on paper and photograph

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This pencil drawing of an owl in a greetings card sent by Mme Passavant is part of a collection of images of owls amassed by poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903-1994).

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

This pencil drawing of an owl in a tree has been drawn on the inside left of a greetings card, which also contains a photographic insert showing a bronze statue of a woman. The words 'Meilleurs Voeux' are printed on the front of the card. The artist has also written an poem to the right of the owl drawing.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)


20th century (made)


Passavant Madame (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil drawing on paper and photograph

Marks and inscriptions

'à Madame et Monsieur / Strachan'
Inscribed in pencil on front of card.

'Meilleurs Voeux'
Printed on front of card.

'juchée au hêtre / la hulotte / tristement / sur deux notes / compte le temps / sa lune falotte / D'un fanal blanc / Faucheur rayon / De trèfle blanc / estroit de mes poèmes / d'enfants / Passavant'
Inscribed in pencil to right of pencil drawing of owl.


Height: 14.5 cm, Width: 20.8 cm open, Width: 10.4 cm folded

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

Pencil drawing on greetings card, owl and poem, by Madame Passavant, France, 20th century

Production Note

Reason For Production: Private


Pencil; Paper


Drawing (image-making); Photography

Subjects depicted

Owl; Women; Statues


Drawings; Greeting cards; Images Online

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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