Cuthbert Edmund Swan, 1870-1931
A Prowling Leopard, Crouching on a Jungle Tree Trunk

signed and dated 1907

pencil and watercolour
35 x 51 cm. (13.3/4 x 20.1/8 in.)


Leopards are graceful and powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars. They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa.

Hunting Skills

The leopard is so strong and comfortable in trees that it often hauls its kills into the branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas. Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. These nocturnal predators also stalk antelope, deer, and pigs by stealthy movements in the tall grass. When human settlements are present, leopards often attack dogs and, occasionally, people.

Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.


Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year. They usually have two grayish cubs with barely visible spots. The mother hides her cubs and moves them from one safe location to the next until they are old enough to begin playing and learning to hunt. Cubs live with their mothers for about two years—otherwise, leopards are solitary animals.

Leopard Spots

Most leopards are light colored with distinctive dark spots that are called rosettes, because they resemble the shape of a rose. Black leopards, which appear to be almost solid in color because their spots are hard to distinguish, are commonly called black panthers.

Artist biography

Cuthbert Edmund Swan was born in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, Ireland. He was educated at Seaford College, Sussex before he and his brother Edwin went on to study at the Academie Julien in Paris. On their return to London they settled in Camden Town. Cuthbert Edmund Swan was a teacher of drawing at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, especially animals. The latter was Irish, the son of John Macallan Swan, who had himself built up a career as a painter of animals, mainly big cats. Cuthbert followed in his father’s footsteps and he, too, was preoccupied with the study and depiction of zoo animals, notably the lions, jaguars, pumas and other big cats, which he regularly exhibited at the RA and other venues.It seems that Cuthbert and his brother, Edwin Swan, probably in the late 1880s, had studied at the Académie Julian in Paris - part of that tide of British students washing over the Channel, eager to become acquainted with some of the most radical art and art teaching available in western Europe at the time. Here, of course, students would meet fellow artists from many different countries and would also encounter some of the most exciting art of the day, notably, the work of the Impressionists. Within the Académie, the emphasis was on scrutinising an image, memorising, recalling and drawing from memory, until the student acquired considerable fluency and could then – of greatest importance – employ that skill as a vehicle for personal expressiveness. Furthermore, when Cuthbert and Edwin Swan arrived back in England, they settled in Camden Town for a while and met and painted with Walter Sickert, Lucien Pissarro and the young Robert Bevan (also lately returned form the Académie Julian).

He spent some time in India and was particularly fond of painting big cats, especially leopards. He taught animal drawing at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of Oil Painters, Paris Salon and elsewhere. Works by him are in the collections of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Llandudno Museum and elsewhere.

He was the son of the eminent painter and sculptor John Macallan Swan R.A. who spent considerable time at London Zoo studying and drawing animals there, particularly the big cats. Before becoming an artist and teacher of animal drawings for L C C School of Arts and Crafts, Cuthbert Swan had been a sailor and a scene painter. He specialised in animals working in oils, watercolours and pastels to produce his paintings and, despite working in India for a while, spent most of his life in Hampstead. He became a member of the Feline School.
He exhibited 66 times in England at the Royal Academy (from 1893) and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters plus others at the Paris Salon, with titles such as "Duke - a study of a lion"; "Jaguars at Play" and "Puma and cubs". His brother Edwin was a portrait painter.

Dictionary of British Animal Painters – J.C. Wood
Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950 - Grant Waters
Dictionary of Victorian Painters - Christopher Wood
Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 - Johnson and Greutzner