Thursday, April 19, 2007

Audubon Exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

John James Audubon: American Artist and Naturalist
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Open through April 29, 2007

The name John James Audubon is synonymous with the study and preservation of American wildlife. His masterpiece, "The Birds of America" folio (the "baby" folio edition is in the science library) and his lifetime of written journals stand as an unsurpassed contribution to the world of fine art, natural science and American history and literature.

John James Audubon's art and aesthetic legacy continue to amaze and inspire. His visionary and prophetic concerns for the environment continue to speak to new generations throughout America and the world today. Met this man of contradictions — John James Audubon: American Artist and Naturalist, on display in the Museum’s Corning and Fawick galleries from February 10 through April 29. The exhibition, which traces Audubon’s life and development as an artist, features 60 Double Elephant Folio-sized, hand-colored engravings from his masterwork, The Birds of America, printed between 1826 and 1838.

When completed, the final Birds of America folio comprised four volumes (each weighing 50 pounds) containing 435 life-sized, hand-colored plates portraying 1,065 individual birds. Each set sold for $1,000, and fewer than 200 bound copies were printed. (Most of the original copper plates were sold years later by Audubon’s destitute widow for their value as scrap metal; only about 80 were saved.)

Also on exhibit are 10 other Audubon prints, three from the smaller and less expensive Royal Octavo edition of The Birds of America and seven from the Imperial Folio of the Quadrapeds, created with son John Woodhouse Audubon. Visitors can see works by Audobon’s contemporaries, original letters, documents, personal items, rare books and photographs. There are also other originals by Audubon, including oil paintings, a drawing and watercolors with his field notes.

In addition to the traveling exhibition from the John James Audubon Museum and State Park in Henderson, Kentucky, the The Cleveland Museum of Natural History will display some of its own Audubon holdings, which include a first-edition Double Elephant Folio of Birds of America, two unbound reprint sets of the Folio and a complete set of the 1876 edition of American Ornithology by Alexander Wilson, a contemporary (and competitor) of Audubon.

Directions to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History