John James Audubon's Birds of America

ILLUSTRATIONS | AUDUBON THE MAN | AUDUBON THE ARTIST | EXPEDITIONS | EDITIONS | SPECIAL PROGRAMS

 

    Barred Owl
   
Barred Owl

AUDUBON THE MAN

In 1803, the 18-year old Audubon sailed from his native France to live in America. During his first four years in this country, he tried a business career in New York, then lived on a Pennsylvania farm which belonged to his father. Here he met his wife, Lucy Blakewell, learned to hunt, and experimented in drawing birds in lifelike poses. Audubon later made expeditions to Philadelphia and nearby areas, notably Great Egg Harbour in New Jersey and Pennsylvania's Great Pine Swamp.

Audubon moved to the Kentucky frontier in 1807 to be a merchant and mill operator. Over the next 11 years, he made occasional trips into the wilderness and recorded his adventures in letters and drawings.

Largely self-taught, in both art and science, Audubon's interest began in childhood. His life half-spent, threatened by bankruptcy, he turned his hobby into a vocation. He was determined to be a recognized artist and naturalist.

For the next 20 years, he supported his family and financed his great dream through a variety of jobs. He painted portraits, worked as a taxidermist for a Cincinnati museum, and taught drawing, fencing, and dancing. As often as he could, he traveled to the American frontier. To obtain lifelike poses of birds Audubon invented a method of wiring newly killed specimens.

The daring of his project was matched by his unbounded energy as a salesman. Dressing as an "American woodsman" with flowing hair and frontier clothes won him friends in high places in Europe. The great and near-great of America, England, and France supported his work.

After publication of "The Birds of America", Audubon and his family moved to a 35-acre farm on the Hudson River. From there he and his two sons published later editions of the collection and worked on 155 animal paintings for his second great work, "The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America".

 

ILLUSTRATIONS | AUDUBON THE MAN | AUDUBON THE ARTIST | EXPEDITIONS | EDITIONS | SPECIAL PROGRAMS