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News Release
Watercolor painting depicting a Ring-necked pheasant. R. Bruce Horsfall, 1921.  OHS Museum, 2019-27.45.1.
Watercolor painting depicting a Ring-necked pheasant. R. Bruce Horsfall, 1921. OHS Museum, 2019-27.45.1.
Intricate Wildlife Illustrations by R. Bruce Horsfall Now on View at the Oregon Historical Society (Photo) - 09/21/23

In the early 1920s, Willard Ayers Eliot hired a well-known natural history artist, R. Bruce Horsfall, to paint 56 works to illustrate Eliot’s book Birds of the Pacific Coast. Published in 1923, this popular and enduring bird identification book saw at least five editions. Eliot was deeply involved with the Oregon Audubon Society (OAS) (now Portland Audubon), and in 1941, he donated the Horsfall paintings to OAS. Portland Audubon donated 55 of Horsfall’s vibrant illustrations to the Oregon Historical Society in 2019, keeping a single illustration for themselves — the Rufous Hummingbird. 

Now, 100 years after the original printing of Birds of the Pacific Coast, OHS is proud to display all 55 Horsfall illustrations preserved in our museum collection as well as the Rufous Hummingbird, on loan from Portland Audubon, alongside information about many of the birds depicted in these paintings. Visitors will also learn more about how to start birding in their own parks and neighborhoods so they can enjoy the beautiful creatures that Horsfall has preserved on paper. This original exhibition, Birds of the Pacific Coast: The Illustrations of R. Bruce Horsfall, is on view now at the Oregon Historical Society’s museum in downtown Portland through May 21, 2024.

R. Bruce Horsfall was born October 21, 1869, in Clinton, Iowa. As a child he took an interest in art and was especially captivated in his family’s pets and wildlife around his home. As a teenager and young adult, Horsfall studied art, first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later abroad in Germany. During his artistic career, Horsfall would become internationally known by having his work featured in magazines and books and through his work with natural history museums.

Between 1914 to 1924, Horsfall, along with his wife, Carra Horsfall, and son, Robert Bruce Horsfall, Jr., lived in Oregon. He became involved with the Oregon Audubon Society, a connection that lasted even after moving away from Oregon. Alongside William Finley and others, Horsfall participated in a survey of wildlife in and around Klamath Lake. His artwork also featured in OAS publications, including Birds of the Pacific Coast and Bluebirds Seven, published in 1978.

For those unable to visit the exhibition in person, all 55 illustrations preserved at OHS can also be found online through the OHS Museum Collection Portal. Launched in 2022, the OHS Museum Collection Portal (museumcollection.ohs.org) is a public, online database highlighting a selection of the incredible objects in the museum’s care. OHS’s museum preserves over 75,000 objects that document the history of the region, which includes clothing and textiles, Native American belongings, artworks, vehicles, equipment, and everyday items. To date, the Portal makes approximately 12,000 of these items accessible, with more records being added regularly. 

The Oregon Historical Society’s museum is open seven days a week, Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm and Sunday 12pm–5pm. Admission is $10, with discounts for students, seniors, teachers, and youth. Admission is free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents. Learn more and plan your visit at ohs.org/visit.

About the Oregon Historical Society

For 125 years, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of objects, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms, educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all.We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view. 

View more news releases from Oregon Historical Society.