A magnificent synthesis of outstanding entomological art and a life spent pursuing butterflies across the world. This finely produced, large-folio publication is limited to 255 signed and numbered copies. The quality of butterfly painting in A Passion for Butterflies is exceptional and achieves a precision that is, simply, at the limit of what is humanly possible. Produced and printed in the UK to exacting standards, this is a book that will appeal to the bibliophile and butterfly enthusiast alike.
Printed in the UK by fine art printers, Healeys of Ipswich, using offset-lithography; the metal printing-plates finished by hand, and printed on a Heidelberg Speedmaster press, using coated paper to ensure the finest possible results.
Format: large folio, portrait
Page size: 18.5 × 13 inches (470 × 340 mm)
Book size: 19 × 13.5 inches (476 × 343 mm)
No. of pages: 200
Illustrations: printed in colour throughout, with over twenty five full-page plates printed to one side only
Typeface: Adobe Caslon Pro
Paper:200 gsm Gallerie Satin with matt coat
End Papers: 135 gsm Colorplan Mist or Real Grey
Boards: 3 mm greyboard.
Limited standard edition: Limited to 200 copies, numbered 56-255. Bound in rich burgundy, Brillianta cloth by Winter & Company gilt-blocked tiding to the spine with blindblocked vignette of the Malagasy swallowtail Parides antenor impressed onto the front board. Silk head and tail-bands. Pictorial dust jacket from 150 gsm laminated paper with a satin finish.
Luxury edition: Limited to 30 copies, numbered 26-55. Cloth binding with dust jacket as above. Housed in a rich burgundy Brillianta cloth slipcase, with blind-blocked butterfly vignette to the sides.
De-luxe edition: Limited to 25 copies, numbered 1-25. Quarter-bound in forest green Kenia Kid morocco leather with gilt titling; contrasting sides of fawn Brillianta cloth, the Malagasy swallowtail Parides antenor blind-blocked to the front board. Housed in a matching fawn Brillianta cloth slipcase, with blind-blocked butterfly vignette to the sides.
The twentieth century saw the publication of numerous, limited-edition, botanical and ornithological 'plate books' that celebrated their subjects through faithfully reproduced paintings, where the artwork was essentially of greater importance than the text. But not so with butterfly books; since the heyday of Victorian publishing, over 150 years ago, such finely illustrated works on butterflies have been virtually non-existent. A Passion for Butterflies reinstates the genre of the fine butterfly plate book. But it is also part travelogue, part autobiography, punctuated with fascinating anecdotes of 60 years butterflying in over 30 countries. Most of the paintings in A Passion for Butterflies have never been previously published, the majority inspired by the artist's personal encounters with the species depicted.
Loe worked as a professional wildlife artist for many years, but his interest in painting butterflies is more deeply engrained. His earliest memories are of watching butterflies on his father's allotment, during the Second World War, and only a few years later he was drawing them. This gives a very good insight into the psyche of the man, because it is not an ordinary person who can spend hour upon hour, day after day, year on year, painting butterflies – when the return is little more than one square inch of completed painting per day. Such endeavour requires single-mindedness, self-discipline and obduracy, mixed with a deep appreciation of the subject, and not to mention, of course, extraordinary skill.
Loe's approach to painting butterflies is essentially two-fold, firstly absolute fidelity and anatomical accuracy must be achieved and secondly they must appear alive and natural. Butterflies are complicated organisms, their wings are highly nuanced: often iridescent, or even transparent, one colour melts into another, they have raised veins, hairs and bristles. As paint does not have the same optical qualities and textures as the make-up of a butterfly's wing, Loe has had to develop techniques that convey the impression rather than attempt to replicate it. Most work is done under a lens, working from set specimens and his own photographs of the species in the wild, to ensure life-like poses. For the finest work, watercolour is always used, often with contrasting pencil backgrounds.
In addition to the fine watercolour paintings there are forays into other media including oil, and pen work. The majority of paintings were produced in the last twenty-five years; un-commissioned; without commercial application, and not for sale. The butterflies portrayed represent some of the world's most beautiful and iconographic species, birdwings: swallowtails, morphos, charaxes and other members of the Nymphalidae, but it is ultimately a personal selection, and includes several spectacular moth species and other fauna.
Loe spent 11 years in Zambia, where he was employed by the mining conglomerate Anglo American Corporation to produce books on Zambian wildlife. This enabled him to travel extensively throughout the region, where he experienced the bizarre and the beautiful, the magnificent and the malevolent. Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, renowned botanist and former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens writes in his foreword "The Illustrations are spectacular, but I would also draw attention to the interesting, mainly autobiographic text that shows the difficulties and the pleasures of seeing so many species of butterflies in the field."
On return to the UK, Loe completed designs, for nearly 600 postage stamps, all with a natural history theme. This again enabled travel to many of the remoter parts of the globe, including Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, Madagascar, South America and many oceanic islands. Stamp design is a world in miniature and ideally suited to Loe's detailed work; a few examples are included in the book.
In 2010 Loe was awarded an MBE for Services to Art; he was made a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society in 1975 and in 1995 Country Life declared him a National Treasure! His work has been exhibited in various galleries and museums including The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge.
A Passion for Butterflies is not a scientific book. While highly readable and entertaining, it is a serious work that highlights some of nature's most dazzling creatures – creatures that, regrettably, may in the future exist only as specimens in museum cabinets. Loe is only too aware of the precarious existence of many of the world's butterflies and has witnessed first-hand the destruction of habitat with the consequent loss of all dependent butterflies and other organisms. Not surprisingly therefore, Loe is an ardent conservationist and 10% of the profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Butterfly Conservation.
This work is unashamedly a celebration of butterflies and is the culmination of one man's lifelong odyssey, pursuing, painting and promoting them. When painting butterflies, Loe brings together two qualities: a deep understanding of the subject and consummate artistic ability. ln the words of John Ruskin " When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece" and it would not be unreasonable to describe thus, some of the paintings that feature in A Passion for Butterflies.