Now on display in Queen Square, Bath, HerschOwl is an Owl inspired by the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, and forms part of Minerva's Owls of Bath, a stunning free public art trail of 80 giant Owls, perched in various prominent locations around the World Heritage city this Summer. The trail of quirky Owl designs, each hand-painted by an artist, will attract many thousands of visitors of all ages to the city while helping to support and promote local businesses and charities. The Owls, which represent super-sized versions of the Little Owl (Athene Noctua) species, will be on display all over the city from 25th June until 10th September.
Ipswich artist Lois Cordelia was commissioned to paint her design Night Owls of Bath: the Herschels - or HerschOwl for short - onto one of the giant Owl statues. The design is generously sponsored by Mogers Drewett Solicitors of Bath, who have created an atmospheric short film (see below) about Lois's painting of the Owl during a live art demonstration on location at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.
Above: Lois Cordelia with HerschOwl
A short film (5:35) by Mogers Drewett showing the painting of HerschOwl
HerschOwl is inspired by two historical 'night owls' of Bath, astronomer-musicians William and Caroline Herschel, whose home in New King Street is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.The designcelebrates William and Caroline Herschel's extraordinary contribution to the nocturnal pursuit of astronomy. William accidentally discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 using a homemade telescope in his back garden. At the time, he thought he'd discovered a star and named it after King George III, but this proved so unpopular that he renamed it “Uranus” to match the other Roman and Greek planetary names. William first moved to Bath in the mid 1760s when he was appointed as organist of Octagon Chapel. His sister Caroline joined him there a few years later, and they worked together building telescopes. William is credited with the discovery of several moons of Uranus and Saturn, seasonal variation in the Martian polar caps, and infrared radiation. The Herschel Museum of Astronomy kindly agreed to host Lois and her Owl while she brought her design to life in May 2018 in the beautiful setting of its Georgian period back garden (where William discovered the Planet Uranus).
Lois was over the moon to paint an Owl inspired by the stars for Minerva's Owls of Bath, and is very grateful to Mogers Drewett for sponsoring her design, which will be her 8th public sculpture trail piece to date. Lois writes: "Like many artists, I am often a night owl. I love painting night skies using shimmering paints and swirling brush strokes. To be painting my astronomy inspired Owl in the very spot in which William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 will make this brief residency at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy extremely meaningful and special for me."
The design features a number of silhouette vignettes of William and Caroline Herschel, along with appropriate details that visitors to the Museum will recognise: the garden sundial with robin, foxgloves and cat, an orrery, and some of the instruments from the Music Room. Lois remarks that the silhouette style is a reference to the Georgian period, when cameo portraits were a popular way of capturing a likeness for posterity. Lois is well known as a paper-cut artist herself, creating intricate silhouette style designs by cutting out of paper using a surgical scalpel. In this case, she drew the designs in outline and then filled them in with black paint.
The name of the trail is a reference to the Goddess Minerva, to whom the temple of the Roman Baths was dedicated when it was built in 1 AD. The owl was a sacred symbol of Minerva, Roman goddess of Wisdom, and is featured in the stone temple pediment at the Roman Baths Museum.
Award winning BBC TV Wildlife presenters Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham have become official 'Owlbassadors' for the trail. Chris Packham will also be painting one of the Owls himself, helping to raise funds for the UK Little Owl Project. The scientific name of the Little Owl is Athene noctua, which neatly links with Minerva, Athene being the Greek version of the Roman Goddess.