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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Allan Cyril Brooks

Allan Cyril Brooks was born on February 15, 1869 in Etawah, India where his father, William Edwin Brooks, was a civil engineer with the Indian Railways while also studying the birds of India. William was a tremendous influence on his son's life and career, connecting him with his acquaintances in the field of ornithology. Allan went to school in England (1873-1881) where he studied the bird life of the Northumberland moors. Allan's father introduced him to Henry Seebohm from whom he learned egg-collection and John Hancock who taught Allan butterfly collection. After William Brooks settled in Ontario, Allan moved there to study birds. In 1885 while in Canada, Allan learned specimen collecting and skinning techniques from Thomas McIlwraith. In 1887, the family moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia where Robert Ridgway, the American ornithologist helped Allan identify birds early in Brooks' life and had shown appreciation for his art work.

Allan began his career as a specimen collector and game hunter, providing specimens to the Victoria Memorial Museum and private collectors. His interest in wildlife painting grew throughout his upbringing and he had interest in turning his talents into a career. Though many wildlife artists in the United States were able to support their interest in art, Allan struggled to do so. William Brewster wrote to him in 1895 that he could help him make the artwork paying if Brooks could work harder. He then made some watercolors for Brewster earning about three dollars for each illustration. Brooks later contributed illustrations to periodicals such as Recreation and St. Nicholas Magazine. His first big commission was for a book by William Leon Dawson. Dawson had sought the work of Louis Agassiz Fuertes but found him too expensive. After completing the commission Allan was subsequently able to find more more work. In 1921, part of his home was burned down. In this fire, he lost many of his old notes and books including a series on Indian birds that he had since the age of 3. In 1926 he married his wife Marjorie. That same year, Allan illustrated Taverner's "Birds of Western Canada" (1926). In 1927 he moved to Brownsville, Texas where he worked on illustrations for volume 3 of "Birds of Massachusetts," a work that had been interrupted by the death of Louis Fuertes. After Fuertes' death in a road accident, Allan was commissioned to complete the plates for "Birds of Massachusetts," cementing him as distinguished bird artist. He later completed for "Birds of Canada" (1934).

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