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John James Audubon (American, 1785 - 1851)
Savanna Finch, 1831, watercolor. Gift of Mrs. Hattie Bishop Speed 1929.30

John James Audubon was a French-American artist and ornithologist, best known for Birds of America, a four volume collection of 435 life size prints of North American birds. Audubon was born in Haiti and spent part of his young life in France before being sent to America, in part to avoid conscription into Napoleon’s army. He spent more than a decade in business in Louisville and Henderson, Kentucky, all the while drawing birds as a hobby. When his business failed in 1819 he was jailed briefly for bankruptcy. With no other prospects Audubon set off on his epic quest to document every bird in America. This watercolor of the Savanna Finch was made during the printing of Birds of America. In the work you can see the high standards Audubon set for himself. The work exhibits a level of detail and naturalism that was unknown in previous ornithological works.




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