Fiona Pardington's new exhibition explores Nabokov's lust for butterflies

Fiona Pardington's new exhibition explores Nabokov's lust for butterflies

Essay by Glenn Fielding

Published in Paperboy

06 July, 2017

In her latest series of work, artist Fiona Pardington – recently knighted in France – zooms in on the frail, silky, fairy-like butterflies that the great Vladimir Nabokov once obsessed over.

 Left to right: Lycaeides melissa (Melissa Blue) wing scales, 1, 2016. With thanks Musée Cantonal de Zoologie, Switzerland. Speyeria coronis halcyone Edwards, from Nabokov’s copy of W.J. Holland, The Butterfly Book, 1, 2016. With thanks New York Public Library.

Left to right: Lycaeides melissa (Melissa Blue) wing scales, 1, 2016. With thanks Musée Cantonal de Zoologie, Switzerland. Speyeria coronis halcyone Edwards, from Nabokov’s copy of W.J. Holland, The Butterfly Book, 1, 2016. With thanks New York Public Library.


In 1950s America, fans of literary smash hit Lolita were surprised to discover that immigrant author Vladimir Nabokov was also a lepidopterist. Butterfly-hunting being popular among posh 19th century Russians, Nabokov made his first kill aged six and might have done nothing else, had not the Bolsheviks upset his luxurious lifestyle. “Had there been no revolution in Russia,” he wrote, “I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.”

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Nabokov’s Blues: The Charmed Circle, at Starkwhite Gallery, 510 Karangahape Rd, July 2017