John James Audubon

American, 1785 - 1851
"My birds, my beloved birds of America, fill all my time and nearly all my thoughts!". Thus wrote John James Audubon, creator of The Birds of America (1827-1838), a landmark in ornithology and one of the most sought-after documents in American art.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), acclaimed as one of the greatest natural artists of all time, devoted most of his adult life to the monumental task of creating a faithful and lasting record of all the birds known to America. For over twenty years, the `American Woodsman' explored the continent - from the Arctic to Patagonia -to study the anatomy, behaviour and habitat of birds as varied as the Bonaparte Fly Catcher, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Great White Crane and the Passenger Pigeon. His contribution to scientific ornithology is significant: during his research he not only discovered hitherto unidentified species but also was the first exponent of bird `banding' or `ringing'. However, Audubon's true achievement lies in transforming accurate descriptions of species into spectacular paintings which bring over 400 American birds vividly to life: he was the first ornithological artist to portray birds life-size and "alive and moving" in naturalistic settings. His enduring images combined scientific accuracy, strong composition and brilliant colour.

Biography courtesy of The Charleston Renaissance Gallery,
John Audubon was born in 1785 in Les Cayes, Haiti. He is the foremost painter of wildlife to date. He had been a bird collector as a boy but undertook the role of shop owner until the age of 35. At this point, Audubon began systematically recording birds in watercolor across the Northeast. He collected all bird specimens and had an assistant to gather flowers and plants to be used in his pictures. In 1826 Audubon traveled to Great Britain in search of a publisher, returning to Florida only during the winter to include more birds in his monumental project. Birds of America was completed and published in 1838. The watercolor illustrations displayed 489 different species and were sold by subscription at $1,000 each. Robert Havellur provided all the engravings to accompany the work. Audubon also published Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America in 1848, which contained 150 more paintings of wildlife.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery,
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