John James Audubon and The Birds of America

Great Egret, 1821 by John James Audubon John James Audubon and
The Birds of America

September 22 ~ November 3, 2012

Wiegand Gallery at the
Western Folklife Center
501 Railroad Street
Elko, Nevada

Exclusively sponsored by Goldcorp USA

Through the generosity of Goldcorp USA's exclusive sponsorship, the Western Folklife Center is honored to present a special traveling exhibition of watercolor prints by one of the most important artists of the nineteenth century:  Explorer, Naturalist, Artist: John James Audubon and The Birds of America, featuring twenty of the dramatic and life-sized watercolor depictions by John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) from the first printing of The New York Historical Society Edition. All of the artworks in this exhibition are from The Dana Rose Richardson Memorial Collection of Audubon Prints at the Nevada Museum of Art. A unique and special feature of the exhibition has the call of each bird available for listening to on the viewer's personal cellphone.

The Opening Reception in the Wiegand Gallery at the Western Folklife Center to celebrate the presentation of these works in Elko was on Friday, September 21 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm with welcome remarks and a tour at 6:30 pm. A spokesperson from the Nevada Museum of Art was present during the reception to discuss the artwork on view.

Black Billed Darter or Snake Bird, 1822 by John James AudubonFrom 1920 to 1838, John James Audubon transversed the eastern and central United States to depict hundreds of species of birds. While not the first person to attempt to portray all the birds of America, Audubon was recognized for half a century as the country's predominant wildlife artist.

His watercolors and drawings not only catalog the birds of America, but capture the essence and beauty of nature itself and the interrelationships between the animals and their habitats. An avid hunter and keen observer, Audubon developed his own method of drawing the birds as if they were alive, using wire to support the bird so that he could "compose" the specimen into lifelike postures that mimicked those he had witnessed in nature.

In 1863, about ten years after John James Audubon's death, his peniless widow Lucy sold the family's remaining collection of Audubon material to the New York Historical Society, including more than four hundred original watercolors that were the basis for his Birds of America series. The series, Audubon's magnum opus containing 434 original watercolors, remains the standard which all bird artists after him, including Roger Tory Peterson and David Sibley, are measured.

Featured artwork this page:

Top - John James Audubon, Great Egret from Birds of America, 1821/2006. Edition print, 37 7/16 inches x 25 1/2 inches. Bottom: Black Billed Darter or Snake Bird, (Anhinga) from Birds of America, 1822/2006. Edition print, 28 1/2 inches x 20 1/4 inches. Both prints, collection of the Nevada Museum of Art; purchased with funds in memory of Dana Rose Richardson. @ New York Historical Society and Joel Oppenheimer, Inc.