Museum of Nebraska Art

Kearney, NE



Heritage of Audobon III


"Ever since I was a boy, I have had an astonishing desire to see the world and acquire a knowledge of birds." John James Audobon


The Museum of Nebraska Art and the Nebraska Art Collection Foundation are presenting through March 26, 2000 a variety of wildlife art carrying on the spirit of the Audubon illustrations and celebrating the Sandhill Crane migration. The exhibition contains five hand colored lithographs by John James Audobon and works of twelve contemporary wildlife artists.

There will be a presentation Friday March 17 at 5:30 p.m. by participating artist Ed McGill titled "Bringing Wood to Life."

On Saturday March 18 at 2:00 p.m. artist Bob Ceresa will present "Carving Techniques," and on Saturday March 18 from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.there will be a reception for the artists. (left: Robert Ceresa, Redhead Drake, tupelo and oil, life-size; right: Ed McGill, Jake the Drake, tupelo and acrylic/oil, life-size)


John James Audubon

Audubon was about thirty-five years old when he seriously began painting watercolors of the different species of North American birds. Over the next six years he traveled the area of today's United States, capturing the images of some 489 species. He then traveled to England in search of engravers and support for his future publication. After gaining financial support, most of it in Great Britain, the Birds of America, containing 435 aquatints was published between 1827 and 1838. Audubon sold subscriptions, acted as his own publisher, sold painted replicas of his pictures to pay for living expenses, wrote the scientific text and essays, supervised the engraving and colored the prints. The Birds of America appeared in four volumes with the aquatints copied from his drawings in their original size and colored by hand. The double elephant folio size was the largest ever attempted in the history of book publishing (approximately 36 inches by 25 inches). The largest of the four volumes weighed 56 pounds. The prints included representations of 1065 birds.
Audubon's prints often contained more than one example of each species. They were depicted life size and often in a setting appropriate in terms of both the habits of the birds and the geography of their habitat. Small birds were often displayed against decorative foliage, while larger birds were frequently shown in action. While Audubon lacked the scientific background of an ornithologist, his artistic talent allowed him to infuse life into his subjects making them superior to his predecessor, Alexander Wilson. Audubon brought an essential "aliveness" and something of a personality peculiar to the species. His accompanying text the Ornithological Biography was edited and rewritten by William MacGillivray and published in five royal octave volumes between 1831 and 1839.
Upon the success of his Birds of America Audubon returned to the United Stares and embarked on a companion project, the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. This less ambitious collection of 150 plates was reproduced using the newer and less expensive process of lithography. This work appeared in two volumes between 1845 and 1848. He was assisted in this project by his two sons Victor Gifford Audubon (1809-1860) and John Woodhouse Audubon (1812-1862). John Woodhouse executed almost half of the original designs, often illustrating the smaller animals. (left: John James Audobon, American Red Fox, 1845-48, handcolored lithograph)
Today Audubon is recognized as a major American artist and the originator of the greatest publication in early American art. It is in the Audubon spirit of accuracy and artistic design that the Museum of Nebraska Art presents the wildlife artists of The Heritage of Audobon III.

from the introduction to the exhibition catalog by James M. May, Curator

Read more about the Museum of Nebraska Art in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

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