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John James Audubon Audubon Red-Tailed Buzzard 1839

Documentation Ample Provenance
Period 19th Century
Materials Watercolor, Lithograph.
Dimensions
W. 12.75 in; H. 16.5 in;
W. 32.39 cm; H. 41.91 cm;
Condition Excellent. Clean, crisp image. Beautiful original colors. Framed to museum specifications using archival matting, backing, and hinging. Wooden frame. Glazed with ultra-violet filtering Plexiglas.
Creation Date 1839
Description JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Birds of America
Octavo Edition
Philadelphia, 1839
New York 1856-71
Lithographs. Original Hand-Color.
6.5” x 10.25” Unframed

Born in Haiti, John James LaForest Audubon spent his youth in France, where he studied for a time under Jacques Louis David. He came to America in 1803, to engage in a series of unlucky ventures as a farmer, merchant and portrait painter. None of these occupations engaged Audubon as much as his avocation, the search for birds and the studies and drawings he made to record his discoveries.

Inspired by the pioneer naturalist Alexander Wilson, Audubon attempted to have his drawing published in Philadelphia, which was then the most important center of natural history in America. He found no printers equal to his challenge but did succeed in persuading his wife and a number of scientifically minded patrons to finance a trip to Europe to find subscribers as well as a publisher.

Audubon persuaded the Edinburgh printer W.H. Lizars to undertake the project. After a few plates were printed, Lizars’ men went on strike. In 1828, Audubon transferred the completed plates and prints to the London firm of Robert Havell, Jr. Havell was an artist of considerable skill, whose experience as a publisher of fine colored prints was exactly what Audubon sought for his own complex compositions. A few black and white proofs exist showing how Havell translated Audubon’s drawings with exquisite fidelity. The full-scale watercolors were kept in the workshop to serve as models for Havell’s colorists. During the next 11 years, both in person and by transatlantic correspondence, Audubon supervised the production of the 435 plates of his masterpiece, Birds of America.

The most distinguished names in Europe and America were on the list of Audubon’s subscribers, including King George IV of England. King Charles I of France, Daniel Webster and the distinguished institutions of the Western world. Most of the surviving complete sets are now preserved in museums, libraries and other institutional collections. Most of Audubon’s original watercolors are now in The New York Historical Society.
Audubon’s birds are depicted life size, and in his own words, in “their most constant and natural association” have never been more dramatically portrayed.

Even before he had finished the work on his monumental double elephant folio edition, Audubon started planning an octavo edition of the work, which was to include his text originally issued as Ornithological Biography. This edition was intended to give the general public access to Audubon’s work, as the price of Havell’s Elephant-folio edition restricted ownership to wealthy collectors and institutions. The octavo edition was an immediate success and was reprinted eight times by 1871. The first edition was printed and hand-colored by John T. Bowen and his assistants in Philadelphia. It is the only set published under the personal and written supervision of Audubon. The later editions were then published in New York by Audubon’s son Victor.

Reference: Louis Bannon and Taylor Clark, Handbook of Audubon Prints. Pelican Publishing Co., 1980.
Styles / Movements Other
Dealer Reference Number 2019 06-18-19 / 08-24-20
Incollect Reference Number 390752
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