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Anhinga

Anhinga

Audubon reported that the diurnal Anhinga was called, among other names, “Bec à Lancette,” “Snake-Bird,” or “Black-bellied Darter.” Taking full advantage of the Anhinga’s gangly neck and elongated bod[...]

American Flamingo

American Flamingo

This iconic image has been termed, like all the watercolors for The Birds of America in aggregate, a national treasure. It represents one of the four species of flamingos native to the Americas. After[...]

Steller’s Eider

Steller’s Eider

JJA wrote in the Ornithological Biography that he had never seen this western duck and, therefore, “I have introduced a figure of it taken by my son John Woodhouse, from a beautiful specimen in the Mu[...]

Audubon’s Environmental Legacy

Audubon’s Environmental Legacy

Today, four species that Audubon depicted are extinct (Carolina Parakeet, Passenger Pigeon, Labrador Duck, and Great Auk), while another two are most certainly so (Eskimo Curlew and Bachman’s Warbler)[...]

Northern Gannet

Northern Gannet

On his Labrador Expedition in 1833 Audubon was eager to visit “Great Gannet Rock,” near the Magdalen Islands north of Nova Scotia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In this watercolor, JJA focused on the vu[...]

Yellow-billed Magpie, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, and Clark’s Nutcracker (with the copper plate)

Yellow-billed Magpie, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, and Clark’s Nutcracker (with the copper plate)

For his portrayal of these members of the crow family, which he executed in Charleston, Audubon used models taken from Townsend and Nuttall’s collection of western species.[...]

Cinematic Birds in the Watercolor Models for The Birds of America

Cinematic Birds in the Watercolor Models for The Birds of America

Audubon’s innovations as a naturalist-artist are apparent in these spectacular watercolors for The Birds of America. They display his brilliant contributions not only to the tradition of ornithologica[...]

House Finch, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Lazuli Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Evening Grosbeak, and Fox Sparrow

House Finch, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Lazuli Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Evening Grosbeak, and Fox Sparrow

Perhaps more than any other watercolor preparatory for The Birds of America, this sheet helps us to understand the level of planning that Audubon put into his tableaux. The sheet is really a layout fo[...]

California Condor

California Condor

The date of 1838 in its inscription proves that Audubon painted the gigantic species―measuring over nine feet from the tips of its wings―which he called the “California Vulture,” in London from a spec[...]

Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, and Black-capped Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, and Black-capped Chickadee

As he rushed to complete his “great work,” The Birds of America, Audubon purchased many skins and, in order to meet his deadline, illustrated more than one species on a single sheet. During the winter[...]

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan

As in Audubon’s two watercolors of the Trumpeter Swan (1863.17.376; 1863.17.406), the artist’s powerful, robust adult male Tundra Swan―with its stalking pose and open bill―contrasts with the more conv[...]

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

The two specimens and the nest that Audubon portrayed in this watercolor model were sent to him from the West by Nuttall, who described the male of the species as “a breathing gem, or magic carbuncle [...]

Great Egret

Great Egret

A trio of watercolors reveals Audubon’s decade-long struggle over this challenging characterization. He confessed that the Great Egret was “the most dificult to Imitate of any Bird I have Yet undertak[...]

Green Heron

Green Heron

In 1826, when Audubon first began raising funds to underwrite The Birds of America, he exhibited this watercolor in Edinburgh. Although he had probably executed it earlier in Louisiana in 1821–22, he [...]

Common Tern

Common Tern

Comparing this later version with Audubon’s earlier study (Figure 1)―where the bird is collaged onto a flat background―underlines why he revised his composition. In 1821 he had cut the bird in the wat[...]

Fascicle 64
Yellow Rail

Yellow Rail

Best known by the nocturnal insect-like cadence of the males (tic-tic, tic-tic-tic), the Yellow Rail ranks as one of North America’s most elusive and mysterious birds. Although some people believe tha[...]

After The Birds of America

After The Birds of America

After the publication of The Birds of America, JJA and his wife Lucy lived at Minnie’s Land―their estate on the Hudson River between West 155th and 158th streets in New York City. They continued showi[...]

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

Audubon first observed white pelicans, one of America’s largest birds, in 1808 on the Ohio River near Henderson, Kentucky. “During those delightful days of my early manhood, how often have I watched t[...]

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

“The Yellow-crowned Heron, which is one of the handsomest species of its tribe, is called ‘Cap-cap’ by the Creoles of Lower Louisiana. . . . This species is by no means entirely nocturnal,” reported A[...]

Completing The Birds of America and Westward Ho

Completing The Birds of America and Westward Ho

The Final Flight is the third exhibition in the once-in-a-lifetime series showcasing the New-York Historical Society’s unparalleled collection of John James Audubon’s (1785–1851) dazzling watercolor m[...]

Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler

During the final two years of production of The Birds of America, Audubon accelerated his schedule by combining species in certain plates. A case in point is this watercolor model with five warblers—o[...]

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