As an adherent to the theory of “Art for Art’s Sake,” Albert Moore approached painting as an expression of formal arrangements and color harmonies. He titled his works to suggest a mood or a tonal quality rather than to explain the visual content. The modello (full-scale study) for the painting Birds presents a statuesque woman, classically proportioned and attired in a pale gold chiton (gown) and a diaphanous white himation (rectangular wrap). But she is not a figure summoned out of ancient Mediterranean history. Instead, her gracefully posed and solidly constructed figure facilitates Moore’s fascination with the delicate interplay of light and color in the sheen of fabric draped on a three-dimension form. As for the “birds” of the title: In the finished painting, a small bird has landed at the figure’s feet. Its pale, golden feathers and white tail provides the tonal template for the painting.
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Albert Joseph Moore, English, 1841-1893
  • Study for Birds
Date 1878
Medium Oil and pencil on two joined canvases
Dimensions Framed: 66 5/16 × 31 3/8 × 3 1/8 inches (168.4 × 79.7 × 7.9 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund
Accession Number 2004.38
Department European Painting
On View Modern N2BB, Level 2 (see map)
Thomas Maclean (Haymarket, London, England);
Miss Enid M. Vale (London, England and Wolverhampton, England);
1970, (Fine Arts Society, London, England);
private collection (USA);
2003-2004, (Peter Nahum, Leicester Galleries, London, England);
2004-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Baldry, A. Lys, Albert Moore. London, 1893, p. 103. [as Birds A Study.]

Asleson, R. Albert Moore. London, 2000, pp. 140, 144-145.

The Sacred and Profane in Symbolist Art. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1969, cat. 37.

Victorian Dreamers. Exh. cat., Ishibashi Foundation. Tokyo, 1989.

Nahum, Peter. Medieval to Modern. Exh. cat., Leicester Galleries. London, 2004, pp. 40-41, cat. 19 (ill.).

Bulletin of the DIA: Notable Acquisitions, 2000–2015 89, no. 1/4 (2015): p. 29 (ill.).