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  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1955 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Krol, Abram, born 1919 - died 2001 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving and pencil on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is one of several images of owls given to poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903-1994) by Abram Krol (born 1919). An engraver, painter and tapestry designer, Krol came from a Polish Jewish family, although he moved to France to study in 1938. His father was an authority on the Talmud and Krol’s early familiarity with the Jewish Old Testament remained an important influence in his work, not just in the subject matter he chose to illustrate, but in stylistic elements which derive from hieratic art. His work combines realism with decorative effect and pictorial symbolism similar to that found in Egyptian hieroglyphics. A famous work by him is Cantique des Cantiques (Song of Songs) which he published in Paris in 1952. He also illustrated a medieval Bestiaire, the original Lyon 1488 edition by Barthelemy de Glanvil as translated by Jehan Corbichon. He published this in Paris in 1955.

Abram Krol’s work is characterised by contrast of line and texture. He employed an interesting technique of colour etching and aquatint from shaped plates. His early experimentation with this technique involved making a cut out (detouré) image shape so that the subject when printed was surrounded by a slight relief. This developed to cut-out shapes superimposed onto flat colour wood-engravings with touches of aquatint. The method of aquatint produces a textured area of uniform tone. The printing plate is covered by a granulated acid-resistant resin so that the acid eats into it between the grains. The area eaten by the acid is then inked to produce the tone. For colour aquatints, more than one plate might be needed.

Walter 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

Engraving showing an owl printed in ochre and black and overworked in pencil around the claws and eye. The image is formed from shaped plates. The feathers and area around the eyes are in fine line. Artist's proof.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)


1955 (made)


Krol, Abram, born 1919 - died 2001 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Engraving and pencil on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Artist signature inscribed in pencil, lower right.

épr d'essai
Inscribed in pencil, lower left.

à Monsieur W.J. STRACHAN / qui sait lire dans les / yeux de la nuit, / bien cordialement / Paris le 4 juin 55
Inscribed in pencil, lower right.


Height: 25.8 cm plate, maximum, Width: 10.3 cm plate, maximum, Height: 31.7 cm sheet, Width: 24.1 cm sheet

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

Colour engraving on paper, owl, by Abram Krol, ca. 1955.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Strachan, Walter J. Graphic owls from France: variations on a theme in an English private collection. Connoisseur. Aug. 1972. pp.240-247.

Production Note

Reason For Production: Private


Paper; Pencil


Engraving (printing process); Drawing

Subjects depicted



Images Online; Prints

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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