Eccentric Edwardian butterfly artist’s work rediscovered in hidden Highland vault – and now ready for display

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Sir Christopher Spink, an artist who created origami sculptures of butterflies from his home in the Highlands.

The work of a long-forgotten Edwardian artist has been discovered hidden away in a Highland attic.

Sir Christopher Spink, an artist who created origami sculptures of butterflies, is believed to have lived from 1895 to 1925.

He traveled the world looking for inspiration for his artistic work.

He followed in the footsteps of his heroine Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717) to South America, where he discovered the crumpled era and the then unknown variegated panache.

But Sir Christopher was frustrated that his works involved killing rare butterflies and so in 1921 he began creating the first of many origami sculptures.

This was, in part, inspired by his friend, Josef Albers (1888 – 1976) who taught the young man when he studied at the highly regarded Bauhaus design school in Germany.

Thanks to the action of the Moniack Mhor Writers’ Center in Beauly, Sir Christopher’s work has been rediscovered and an exhibition of his work has started at the centre.

Claire Daly, director of the centre, said: “We were busy cleaning room eight in preparation for our international residency when we spotted a previously unknown opening, previously hidden by plasterboard, in the eaves of our 18th century building.

“When the lock was opened, we found these wooden boxes containing these wonderful treasures, although covered in dust, we couldn’t believe it when we discovered these amazing creations.

“We started researching Sir Christopher Spink and now know that as the world’s first vegan taxidermist, long before the word vegan even existed, he deserves far greater fame.

“So we created an exhibition to showcase this wonderful forgotten artist and bring his work to a modern audience.”

Sir Christopher captured the only sighting of the Dogeared Princeling of Argentina before it died out in 1930 and the Trailing Brightpath of the Amazon, which has never been seen since.

Sir Christopher died in 1925, leaving behind only his faithful companion, Otto, his dog.

His eccentricities made him famous in the Highlands in the 1920s.

It was not only as an artist but also for the entertainment he provided to his visitors which included artists and writers from all over the world.

A local reporter at the time recalled seeing Sir Christopher riding his Penny Farthing while juggling in Beauly Square.

He was also known to sing loudly while walking his dog.

The aristocrat suffered from what today would be called dyspraxia, but the condition was then completely unknown.

This is believed to be what prompted him to start learning to juggle and later practice paper origami.

Eugenie Vronskaya, a local artist, said: “These butterflies are the most wildly creative sculptures we know of to have emerged from the Highlands during this period.

“The hand-marbled paper he used mimics the natural patterns found on butterfly wings.

“The collecting spirit stems from the Victorian era and Sir Christopher Spink is the first known artist to have challenged this and his extraordinary work represents the shift towards a more modern artistic reflection of nature and the natural world.

“Butterflies are an eternal symbol of hope and due to their metamorphic life cycles they are frequently used to represent transformation and here they suggest that with change on both a personal and societal level a new future could yet to be reinvented and realized.

“His work is very important in increasing our understanding of Highland culture at this time and now has far-reaching implications for the art world.”


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