Albany Museum of Art

Albany, Georgia



Audubon's Quadrupeds


The Albany Museum of Art in Albany, Georgia is pleased to announce that Audubon's Quadrupeds will be on view at the Museum through February 27, 2000. This exhibition, from the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas, is comprised of 16 prints of animals from Texas selected from John James Audubon's The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. John James Audubon's last major artistic accomplishment was the creation of 150 drawings of North American animals. With the aid of his son, John Woodhouse Audubon, he created the first attempt ever to document and depict all the mammals of North America. Produced from 1845 through 1848 by the distinguished Philadelphia printmaker, J.T. Bowen, the black and white lithographs were completely hand colored. The expressive and gracefully balanced compositions, drawn from nature, bear the unmistakable stamp of Audubon's genius.

Audubon's Quadrupeds is the second exhibition in the Museum's Raymond F. Evans Sporting Art Gallery. Named for its founding patron, who was the former owner of Tallassee Plantation, the gallery is dedicated to works of fine art that define, chronicle, and celebrate the unique character of the wildlife of the American landscape and its stewards. "It is a pleasure to have these works by such a popular artist in the Evans Gallery," says Kristen Miller Zohn, Curator of Art. "Audubon was such a stickler for detail, and because the rich colors were painted by hand, the animals seem to leap off the paper! By the way, just in case you are wondering, 'vivaporous quadrupeds' means 'animals with four legs who give birth to living young instead of laying eggs.' Many of the animals depicted in the exhibition are also inhabitants of Georgia." (left: Plate fromThe Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America., Museum of the Southwest, Midland, Texas)

John James Audubon led a very exciting life. He gave several different accounts of his birth, but the discovery of records in France in the early 1900's established that he was the son of a French Naval Captain and a French girl who worked for Captain Audubon at his sugar plantation in San Domingo (now Haiti). Audubon's real mother died within a short time after his birth, so Audubon's father took him back to France as a young child where he was adopted by Captain Audubon and his legal wife. Apparently to hide his illegitimate birth, Audubon gave different stories and led some people to believe he was born in Louisiana or was the son of Louis XVI, the King of France. A book entitled I Who Should Command All, leans heavily on the belief that Audubon was, in fact, the Lost Dauphin who disappeared from the tower during the French Revolution.

As a teenager, Captain Audubon sent his son to manage his plantation near Philadelphia. It was here that Audubon met and married his wife, Lucy, whose support was critical in achieving his success. During his early married years he was unsuccessful in business and attained fame as an artist only after many troubled years. Audubon succeeded only because he went to England where his work was appreciated. Subscribers made possible the long publication of his 435 prints (1826 to 1838). In the 1830s Audubon also wrote his Ornithological Biography which describes the habits of the birds he drew. He interspersed these bird biographies with episodes on life in America during this turbulent period. His writings are now considered a literary treasure and should be explored by the serious Audubon collector.

After being successful with the birds, as with any great artist, Audubon turned to another subject and undertook to publish the animals of America. This proved more difficult than he had anticipated, as many of our animals were nocturnal and their habits were hard to learn. He was greatly aided by a Lutheran minister in Charleston, South Carolina, Dr. John Bachman, whose daughters were the first wives of his two sons, John Woodhouse and Victor Audubon. In fact, John drew over half of the 155 animal plates of the Vivaporous Quadrupeds, and Victor contributed by managing the sales and drawing many of the backgrounds.

Audubon made a trip to the "western regions" in the 1840s, his last great adventure prior to his death in 1851. He chased the great Buffalo herds, but never achieved his dream of reaching the West Coast.


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

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