The Caged Bird

From the painting by Byam Shaw (1907) at Winterbourne, Birmingham

From the painting by Byam Shaw (1907) at Winterbourne, Birmingham

Commentary by Peter Nahum and Sally Burgess

In The Caged Bird, Byam Shaw uses allegory. The caged bird is literally released, whilst the girl herself will never be free to follow her heart. As the youngest daughter, her duties lie with her ageing parents. The startling clarity and gaiety of the colours set in the old garden at Condover Hall in Shropshire are in sharp contrast to the sobering reality of her situation.

The model for the painting was Maud Tindal Atkinson, an artist pupil who exhibited at the Royal Academy 1907, from whom he painted a life size watercolour which hung at the Royal Academy in 1906.

The symbolism of the release of a caged bird in Seventeenth-Century Dutch painting signified the loss of virginity of the owner. As Maud was his favourite pupil, it would seem apparent that this hidden meaning was not lost on the artist.

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