John James Audubon
In June, 1863, The New-York Historical Society managed to scrape together the $4,230 necessary to purchase 464 John James Audubon drawings (430 for the 1838 BIRDS OF AMERICA volumes, which figured to be about $9 per watercolor) from his impoverished widow. It was not until 1985, however, that all the illustrations for Audubon’s BIRDS OF AMERICA were exhibited for the first time. The present volume, which accompanied that exhibition, displays Audubon’s artistic genius in full color display. More than one hundred watercolors are given full-page or two-page spreads, while hundreds of additional watercolors from the society’s collection are reproduced six to a page. All of the reproductions will startle readers with their color and their life.
Equally important are the four essays that preface this beautiful book, by Stebbins, Blaugrund, Amy R. W. Meyers (“Observations of an American Woodsman: John James Audubon as Field Naturalist”), and Reba Fishman Snyder (“Complexity in Creation: A Detailed Look at the Watercolors for THE BIRDS OF AMERICA”). These essays help to establish Audubon, not only as a major figure in the development of nineteenth century American art but also as an early but important ornithologist as well. The volume is a fitting tribute to this nineteenth century French-American genius.