Elizabeth Butterworth studied at the local Rochdale School of Art, and then at the Royal College of Art, London, between 1971-74. She has dedicated her career to producing exquisitely detailed studies of birds, primarily parrots and macaws. For the art critic Ian Dunlop, Butterworth is “without rival this century”. Butterworth has an encyclopedic knowledge of her subjects, having bred macaws for much of her life, and has travelled to the rainforests in South America to watch them in their natural habitat. Studies from life have been supplemented by regular visits to the Natural History Museum, London, to examine the minutiae of the birds' anatomy.
Her work was first spotted by Angela Flowers, who included several drawings in a mixed exhibition in 1973, before giving her a solo show in 1976. Subsequent solo shows include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1985, and the Natural History Museum, London, in 2001. Butterworth's work has featured in group shows worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and recently as part of the Government Art Collection, a selection of which was on view at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 2012. Examples of her drawings and prints are held in prominent public collections around the world.
Elizabeth Butterworth is represented by the Redfern Gallery.