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Displaying items by tag: John James Audubon

In his groundbreaking work "The Birds of North America," John James Audubon brought together the art world and the outdoors in a new way. It served as both a scientific record of North American bird species and a landmark in how to represent wildlife in art.

What’s less well known is the massive project Audubon took on after "The Birds of North America."

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John James Audubon painted many birds, but for sheer stage presence, his great gray owl is hard to beat. Perched on a rotten branch, it turns halfway, as though disturbed, and fixes the viewer with an imperious stare. The yellow eyes glow, their intensity magnified by concentric ringlike markings that spread outward, like a feathery vortex. The plumage is regal — thick drapery, in a gray and brown pattern, falling in soft folds. The owl exudes the heavy solemnity of one of Velázquez’s popes or Holbein’s portrait of Thomas More.

The owl has stiff competition in “Audubon’s Aviary: The Final Flight.”

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Last March, the New-York Historical Society launched “Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock.” The sweeping, three-part exhibition celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Society’s purchase of the 435 avian watercolors that John James Audubon’s created for his seminal volume, “Birds of America.”

While “Audubon’s Aviary: Part I of the Complete Flock” offered patrons a rare glimpse into Audubon’s earlier years, “Parts Unknown (Part II of the Complete Flock),” will consider Audubon as an established artist-naturalist, a world traveler, and a well-known figure in a growing nation. The show, which focuses on Audubon’s preparatory watercolors for “Birds of America,” will present more than 132 watercolors depicting mainly water birds and waders, many of which are among Audubon’s most spectacular and largest birds. The show will be complemented by audio of bird calls and songs of each species from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“Audubon’s Aviary: Parts Unknown (Part II of the Complete Flock)” will open at the New-York Historical Society on March 21, 2014 and will remain on view through May 26, 2014. The exhibition’s third installment will open in 2015.

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013 17:45

Audubon’s Birds on View in Minneapolis

The University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History is currently hosting the exhibition ‘Audubon and the Art of Birds,' which presents the original “double-elephant” prints from John James Audubon’s seminal work, ‘Birds of America.’ Produced between 1826 and 1838, the volume revolutionized our view of birds and nature and is widely considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed.

Audubon and the Art of Birds’ presents 35 prints by theme -- Cataloging Creation, Exploration and Discovery, The Beauty of Birds, The Living Bird, Bird Book Evolution, Birds and Conservation, Birds in the Environment, Life and Death in Bird Art -- and includes works by Audubon’s contemporaries as well as those who followed in his footsteps. Ultimately, the exhibition traces the evolution of bird art from the 1500s to the present day and highlights Audubon’s role in that transformation.

‘Audubon and the Art of Birds’ will be on view at the Bell Museum through June 8, 2014. 

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One of only 11 surviving copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States, sold for $14.2 million on November 26 at Sotheby’s in New York. The book, which was purchased by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, set a new world auction record for any printed book. Rubenstein plans to loan the book to libraries across the country before putting it on long-term loan at one of them.

The Bay Psalm Book’s selling price soared past the previous auction record for a printed book, established in December 2010 at Sotheby’s London when a copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America sold for $11.5 million. The last time a copy of the Bay Psalm Book appeared at auction was in January 1947 when it sold at Sotheby’s for $151,000.

The Bay Psalm Book was published in Cambridge, MA by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony about two decades after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Approximately 1,700 copies of the book were printed.

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Dürer, Rembrandt & Whistler: Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly is now on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. The exhibition is comprised of one of the finest local collections of Old Master prints, which was assembled by Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly. Kelly, who had primarily collected American 20th century prints and prints by John James Audubon (1785-1851) in the past, began collecting Old Master works in recent years.

Kelly’s collection includes rare etching, woodcuts and engravings by German printmaker Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528); nearly 30 works by Rembrandt (1606-1669); sheets by Canaletto (1697-1768); and several sheets by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). The collection is rounded out by a group of etched cityscapes and figure studies by James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903).

 Dürer, Rembrandt & Whistler: Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly will be on view at the Bruce Museum through August 18, 2013. A scholarly catalogue and educational programs complement it.

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A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, which was printed by pilgrims in Plymouth, MA in 1640, will head to auction at Sotheby’s in New York on November 26, 2013. The book is expected to garner around $30 million, which would set the record for a book at auction. John James Audubon’s Birds of America currently holds the record, a copy of which sold for $11.5 million 2010.

 Bay Psalm Book was written by colonials John Cotton, Richard Mather, and John Eliot 20 years after they arrived in America. Only 11 copies of the original run of 1,700 copies remain. The copy that will be auctioned in November belongs to Boston’s Old South Church, which currently owns two of the books.

The last time a copy of the Bay Psalm Book was offered at auction was in 1947 when it sold for $151,000, setting a record at the time. The book will go on a tour of various U.S. cities before the sale.

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On March 8, 2013 the New-York Historical Society will launch Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock (Parts I-III). The three-part exhibition, which will be on view for three years, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Society’s purchase of John James Audubon’s (1785-1851) avian watercolors. The exhibition coincides with the release of the book Audubon Aviary: The Original Watercolors for ‘The Birds of America,’ which was published by the New-York Historical Society and Skira Rizzoli Publishing.

 Audubon’s Aviary: Part I of the Complete Flock will run from March 8-May 19, 2013 and offers patrons a rare glimpse into Audubon’s earlier years. A self-taught artist, this segment of the exhibition explores how Audubon developed his unmatched style and his use of experimental media. The exhibition will include a selection of rare, early pastels on loan from the Houghton Library of Harvard University and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de la Rochelle in France. Part I will also feature 220 of Audubon’s avian watercolors including the first 175 models engraved in The Birds of America.  

Between the exhibition’s three parts, the Historical Society will present all 474 avian watercolors in its collection. The preparatory watercolor models for the seminal The Birds of America (1927-38) will appear alongside progressive media installations that aim to reinforce the connection between art and nature.

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The exhibition presents 64 prints from Audubon’s first edition, plus four large animal prints from his later Imperial Quadrupeds edition and prints from later editions and several of Audubon’s contemporaries. This exhibition also features several original oil paintings by Audubon, as well as personal belongings such as the silver cup presented to his engraver upon completion of the publication of volume two of “The Birds of America.”

John James Audubon (1785-1851) is known today for his remarkable work “The Birds of America.” He led a complex life, starting as the illegitimate child of a French sea captain in what is now Haiti, traveling to France and then to Pennsylvania to start anew after the French revolution, and embarking on a lifelong study of birds and other animals that would eventually bring him fame and fortune. A chance encounter with ornithologist Alexander Wilson in 1810 led Audubon to embark on a vast project, a life-sized color folio of all the birds of North America.

His project would take 28 years to come to fruition. He spent 16 years studying and drawing birds, pioneering a lifelike portrayal of them, unlike the stiff and awkward bird portraits of his contemporaries. Unable to find a publisher in the U.S., he traveled to England, and after a strike halted work at his first engraver, began a partnership with the English engraver Robert Havell Jr. In June of 1838, his magnum opus, “The Birds of America,” was published to wide acclaim.

Audubon’s legacy is remarkable. By drawing attention to the majesty of the birds and mammals of North America, he inspired a conservation movement. The Audubon Society was founded in his honor, and his name remains synonymous with conservation and bird preservation to this day.

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