Birds of a Feather: John Costin and John James Audubon

March 24 - June 24, 2012

 



 

Object labels from the exhibition


JOHN COSTIN
Osprey, 1990
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Osprey (Falco haliaetus),
1832 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
When [the Osprey] plunges into the water in pursuit of a fish, it sometimes proceeds deep enough to disappear for an instant. The surge caused by its descent is so great as to make the spot around it present the appearance of a mass of foam. On rising with its prey, it is seen holding it in the manner represented in the plate. It mounts a few yards into the air, shakes the water from its plumage, squeezes the fish with its talons, and immediately proceeds toward its nest, to feed its young, or to a tree, to devour the fruit of its industry in peace.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Caracara, 1998
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Brasilian Caracara Eagle
(Polyborus vulgaris),
1833 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The most remarkable difference with respect to habits, between these birds and the American Vultures, is the power which they possess of carrying their prey in their talons. They often walk about, and in the water, in search of food, and now and then will seize on a frog or a very young alligator with their claws, and drag it to the shore. Like the Vultures, they frequently spread their wings towards the sun, or in the breeze, and their mode of walking also resembles that of the Turkey Buzzard.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Great Blue Heron, 1989
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodius),
1834 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
In my estimation, few of our waders are more interesting than the birds of this family. Their contours and movements are always graceful, if not elegant. Look on the one that stands near the margin of the pure stream: -- see his reflections dipping as it were into the smooth water, the bottom of which it might reach had it not to contend with the numerous boughs of those magnificent trees. How calm, how silent, how grand is the scene! The tread of the tall bird himself no one hears, so carefully does he place his foot on the moist ground, cautiously suspending it for a while at each step of his progress....Satisfied that no danger is near, he lays his head on his shoulders, allows the feathers of his breast to droop, and patiently awaits the approach of his finned prey.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Woodstork, 2000
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Wood Ibis (Tantalus loculator),
1834 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
To procure its food, the Wood Ibis [common name: Woodstork] walks through shallow muddy lakes or bayous in numbers. As soon as they have discovered a place abounding in fish, they dance as it were all through it, until the water becomes thick with the mud stirred from the bottom by their feet. The fishes, on rising to the surface, are instantly struck by the beaks of the ibises, which, on being deprived of life, they turn over and so remain. In the course of ten or fifteen minutes, hundreds of fishes, frogs, young alligators, and water-snakes cover the surface, and the birds greedily swallow them until they are completely gorged, after which they walk to the nearest margins, place themselves in long rows, with their breasts all turned towards the sun, in the manner of Pelicans and Vultures, and thus remain for an hour or so.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Reddish Egret, 2002
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Purple Heron (Ardea rufescens),
1835 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The flight of this Heron [common name: Reddish Egret] is more elevated and regular than that of the smaller species. During the love season, it is peculiarly graceful and elegant, especially when one unmated male is pursuing another, a female being in sight. They pass through the air with celerity, turn and cut about in curious curves and zigzags, the stronger bird frequently erecting its beautiful crest, and uttering its note, at the moment when it expects to give its rival a thrust. When these aerial combats take place between old and immature birds, their different colours form a striking contrast, extremely pleasing to the beholder.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Anhinga, 1995
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Black-bellied Darter (Plotus anhinga),
1836 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
Many writers have described what they have been pleased to call the habits of the Anhinga...when the basis of all their fancies
was merely a dried skin and feathers appended. Leaving these ornithologists for the present to amuse themselves in their snug closets,
I proceed to detail the real habits of this curious bird, as I have observed and studied them in Nature.
 
Wherever you may chance to find this bird, you will perceive that it has not left itself without the means of escape; you will never find one in a pond or bayou completely enclosed by tall trees, so as to obstruct its passage; but will observe that it generally prefers ponds or lakes...having a few large trees growing out of the water near their centre, from the branches of which they can easily mark the approach of an enemy, and make their escape in good time.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Roseate Spoonbill, 1989
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja),
1836 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The sight of a flock of fifteen or twenty of these full-dressed birds is extremely pleasing to the student of nature, should he conceal himself from their view, for then he may observe their movements and manners to advantage....They all stalk about with graceful steps along the margin of the muddy pool, or wade in the shallows in search of food. After a while they rise simultaneously on wing, and gradually ascend in a spiral manner to a great height, where you see them crossing each other in a thousand ways, like so many Vultures or Ibises.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Great Egret, 1991
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
White Heron (Ardea alba),
1837 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
Its silky train reminded one of the flowing robes of the noble ladies of Europe. The train of this Egret, like that of other species, makes its appearance a few weeks previous to the love season, continues to grow and increase in beauty, until incubation has commenced, after which period it deteriorates, and at length disappears about the time when the young birds leave the nest....
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Glossy Ibis, 2004
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Glossy Ibis (Ibis falcinellus),
1837 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The Glossy Ibis is of exceedingly rare occurrence in the United States, where it appears only at long and irregular intervals, like a wanderer who has lost his way. It exists in Mexico, however, in vast numbers. In the spring of 1837, I saw flocks of it in the Texas; but even there it is merely a summer resident, associating with the White Ibis, along the grassy margins of the rivers and bayous, and apparently going to and returning from its roosting places in the interior of the country....I have given the figure of a male bird in superb plumage, procured in Florida, near a wood-cutter's cabin, a view of which is also given.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Brown Pelican, 1990
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus fuscus),
1835 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
Within the recollection of persons still living, its numbers have been considerably reduced, so much indeed that in the inner Bay of Charleston, where twenty or thirty years ago it was quite abundant, very few individuals are now seen.... They became more abundant the farther south we proceeded, and I procured specimens at different places, but nowhere so many as at Key West. There you would see them flying within pistol-shot of the wharfs, the boys frequently trying to knock them down with stones, although I believe they rarely succeeded in their efforts. Scarcely an hour of daylight passed without our having Pelicans around us, all engaged at their ordinary occupations, some fishing, some slumbering as it were on the bosom of the ocean, or on the branches of the mangroves. Now, Reader, look at those birds standing on their strong column-like legs, on that burning sand-bar. How dexterously do they wield that great bill of theirs, as they
trim their plumage!
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo),
1832 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The great size and beauty of the Wild Turkey, its value as a delicate and highly prized article of food, and the circumstance of its being the origin of the domestic race now generally dispersed over both continents, render it one of the most interesting of the birds indigenous to the United States of America.
 
...The males, or, as they are more commonly called, the gobblers, associate in parties of from ten to a hundred, and search for food apart from the females; while the latter are seen either advancing singly, each with its brood of young, then about two-thirds grown, or in connexion with other families, forming parties often amounting to seventy or eighty individuals, all intent on shunning the old cocks, which, even when the young birds have attained this size, will fight with, and often destroy them by repeated blows on the head.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
Wild Turkey, 1993
hand-colored etching
 
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo),
1832 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
The male Turkey has already been described, and you have seen that magnificent bird roaming in the forests, approaching the haunts of man, and performing all the offices for which he is destined in the economy of nature.
 
Here you have his mate, now converted into a kind and anxious parent, leading her young progeny, with measured step and watchful eye, through the intricacies of the forest. The chickens, still covered with down, are running among her feet in pursuit of insects. One is picking its sprouting plumelets, while another is ridding itself of a tick which has fastened upon its little wing.
 
 
JOHN COSTIN
White Ibis, 1993
hand-colored etching
 
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
White Ibis (Ibis alba),
1834 (reproduced in 1971)
lithograph
 
From Audubon's Ornithological Biography (1831-39):
 
Sandy Island...is remarkable as a breeding-place for various species of water and land birds....The vegetation consists of a few tall mangroves, thousands of wild plum trees, several species of cactus, some of them nearly as thick as a man's body, and more than twenty feet high, different sorts of smilax, grape-vines, cane, palmettoes, Spanish bayonets, and the rankest nettles I ever saw,­all so tangled together, that I leave you to guess how difficult it was for my companions and myself to force a passage through them in search of birds' nests, which, however, we effected, although the heat was excessive, and the stench produced by the dead birds, putrid eggs, and the natural effluvia of the Ibises was scarcely sufferable. But then the White Ibis was there, and in thousands. As we entered that well-known place, we saw nests on every bush, cactus, or tree. Whether the number was one thousand or ten I cannot say, but this I well know:­I counted forty-seven on a single plum-tree.

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