By: Richard Rhodes, Scott V Edwards and Leslie A Morris
272 pages, 116 colour illustrations
In 1805, Jean Jacques Audubon was a twenty-year-old itinerant Frenchman of ignoble birth and indifferent education who had fled revolutionary violence in both Haiti and France to take refuge in frontier America. Ten years later, John James Audubon was an American citizen, entrepreneur, and family man whose fervent desire to 'become acquainted with nature' had led him to reinvent himself as a naturalist and artist whose publication of Birds of America would soon earn him international acclaim.
The drawings he made during this crucial decade, of specimens he collected in France and in America - now held by the Houghton Library and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard - are published together here for the first time in large format and full colour. In these portraits we watch Audubon invent his ingenious methods of posing and depicting his subjects, and we trace his development into a scientist and an artist who could proudly sign his artworks 'drawn from Nature'.
Produced to very high quality standard, and with a slipcase.
Audubon: Early Drawings is a record of nature and of Audubon's own artistic apprenticeship--we can watch Audubon becoming Audubon. The earliest drawings--done in watercolor and, later, pastel--are simple profiles of birds silhouetted against the blank page with little in the way of natural context. They are delicate, hesitant, almost childlike renderings. Later drawings--made after Audubon had invented his celebrated technique of pinning dead birds into naturalistic poses--are more lifelike and animated, more confidently rendered. These look toward the fully realized images of "The Birds of America," with their intense drama and implied narratives. Even at an early stage this self-taught artist possessed a powerful sense of color and a keen sensitivity to the way light can model a form. Yet we see him reaching the limits of his technique in his almost-but-not-quite depiction of the male wood grouse's variegated plumage. Mastery would come later. Each rendering in "Audubon: Early Draw
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