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Audubon Monumental Prints of America's Birds
Shape, Texture, Plumage, Color

YONKERS, NY. AUGUST 28, 2004-This fall the museum focuses on the bird in art. Twenty-two prints by America's best-known ornithologist-artist John James Audubon (1785-1851), from his groundbreaking The Birds of America, show his artistry producing accurate illustrations of birds in their habitats.
Born in Haiti and raised in France, Audubon came to the United States at 18 to supervise Mill Grove, his father's plantation near Philadelphia. Now part of the Audubon Nature Sanctuary, Mill Grove has lent the engravings for this fall show. In 1803 and 1804, Audubon spent much time at the plantation studying birds. Then for the next 20 years, in all seasons, he hunted specimens, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, rigging them into natural, animated postures with wire, so he could paint them immediately. Working in watercolor, enhanced with gouache and glazes, Audubon painted the birds himself, with meticulous attention to their coloration and plumage, but often delegated the backgrounds to his assistants.
A British firm, R. Havell and Son, took on the technically challenging and expensive task of turning Audubon's watercolor illustrations into prints in a process of etching, aquatinting and engraving. Over 1, 000 birds are represented in 435 plates in four volumes issued between 1827 and 1838. Audubon's life-size depictions appear on double-elephant folio sheets measuring more than two by three feet, accompanied a synopsis and index. Originally priced at one thousand dollars, first editions of The Birds of America have sold in recent years for as much as four million dollars.




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