John James Audubon was an American ornithologist, artist, naturalist known for his studies, drawings, and paintings of North American birds. The images created by John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) are icons of nineteenth-century American art. Renowned for the double-elephant folio of The Birds of America published from 1827 to 1838, the original watercolors Audubon made preparatory for that publication are less familiar. These fragile treasures reside in the New-York Historical Society, New York City's oldest museum. It is these stunning watercolors that most authentically convey the virtuosity of Audubon's artistic vision of the cycle of avian life in nature.
In 1863 Lucy Audubon sold the core collection of Audubon material still in the family's possession to the New-York Historical Society, New York's first museum. The collection was formidable. In addition to artifacts and family memorabilia, it included the most important comprehensive collection of one of the greatest nineteenth-century American artist: 471 of John James Audubon's original watercolors, of which 434 were for The Birds of America.
The watercolors have been exhibited sparingly in recent years, most notably on a traveling tour to seven of the nation's most venerable fine art museums from 1993 to 1996. Today, because of their cultural significance and vulnerability to light exposure, conservators have limited time to six weeks every ten years.
Our pieces are part of the first-ever printed editions of Audubon's watercolors.