Buzzards and Tunnicliffe’s Brooke Bond Bird Portraits

There’s a Buzzard overhead. It reminds me of one of Charles Tunnicliffe’s portraits.

Buzzard - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Charles Tunnicliffe was a genius at representing wildlife. His art was well known, from his illustrations for bestsellers like Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, but the greatest reach of his illustrations was probably from their distribution on Brooke Bond tea cards. These were small cards slipped inside packets of loose leaf tea, with the aim of encouraging brand loyalty. Households would collect the different cards and paste them into a booklet which contained the corresponding text.

Here’s a book to collect them in, priced 6 old pence. This Peregrine on the cover is a wonderful way of representing the bird.

Tunnicliffe's Bird Portraits - The Hall of Einar

The 1950s and 1960s seem to have been the biggest years for Tunnicliffe’s tea cards and it’s possible to pick up completed books, with all the cards, on auction sites for just a few pounds.

I particularly like the Buzzard card, as it shows Tunnicliffe’s genius at naturalistic portrayals, rather than formal studies, while keeping all the precision needed to show them accurately. It looks exactly like a Buzzard and just like the impression you get of a Buzzard when you see it:

The Hall of Einar - Charles Tunnicliffe

I’m so glad that Buzzards are still doing well, despite the persecution they face on shooting estates.

What do we have now which will entrance a new generation of young people to begin their fascination with native British wildlife?

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