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Academic & Professional Books  Natural History  Art

Audubon as Artist A New Look at The Birds of America

By: Roberta JM Olson(Author)
383 pages, 130 colour & 55 b/w photos and illustrations
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Audubon as Artist
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  • Audubon as Artist ISBN: 9781789148381 Hardback Mar 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £35.00
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

John James Audubon (1785-1851), artist, naturalist and creator of the celebrated The Birds of America, is widely regarded as America's first exceptional watercolourist. Audubon as Artist offers a unique exploration of Audubon's artistic journey, intertwined with the drama of his life, unveiling how he studied both past and contemporary artists to forge entirely innovative, exemplary works of fine art. Roberta J. M. Olson delves into the controversies surrounding this legendary figure, who, for the first time in history, accurately represented all avian species life-size. Beautifully illustrated, Audobon as Artist chronicles how Audubon infused ornithological illustration with a sense of exhilaration, breathing new life into once-conventional formulas and transforming them into awe-inspiring masterpieces.


Chapter 1. Before The Birds of America and Audubon’s ‘Early Birds’
Chapter 2. Desperately Seeking a Living in Art
Chapter 3. Audubon in the Crosshairs
Chapter 4. Fledging: Great Britain and the Odyssey of The Birds
Chapter 5. To France and Feathering the Nest
Chapter 6. Migrations to Parts Unknown and Completing the Flock
Chapter 7. Audubon at the Crossroads

Appendix: List of Exhibitions and Learned Society Memberships
Abbreviations and Short References
Further Reading
List of Illustrations

Customer Reviews


Roberta J. M. Olson is the Curator of Drawings at the New York Historical Society. Her publications include Cosmos (with Jay M. Pasachoff, Reaktion Books, 2019) and Audubon's Aviary: The Original Watercolors for The Birds of America (2012).

By: Roberta JM Olson(Author)
383 pages, 130 colour & 55 b/w photos and illustrations
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Media reviews

"Audubon as Artist – as meticulously researched as it is spiritedly written – will completely revolutionize our understanding of Audubon's complicated legacy. Everyone seems to know Audubon these days; Roberta Olson, one of the leading art historians and museum curators working today, shows us how little we have in fact known. The first scholar to treat Audubon's desire to be admired both as an artist and an ornithologist with the seriousness it deserves, she elucidates the art that influenced him and the artistic techniques he cultivated to create what Cuvier rightly called the 'greatest human monument to nature'."
– Christoph Irmscher, Distinguished Professor of English at Indiana University and author of The Poetics of Natural History

"Although so much has been written about Audubon, Roberta Olson brings new and fresh insights into the life and work of the artist-naturalist. In Audubon as Artist, with her customary scholarly flair she presents the reader with a detailed and fascinating outline of Audubon's development as an artist and the art that influenced him. This richly illustrated book brilliantly demonstrates how his awareness of European, Asian and even Indian painting was integrated into his own unique art. Audubon as Artist clearly shows that Audubon was much more than an illustrator of birds – he was America's first great watercolourist and should be placed firmly within a wider artistic tradition."
– Mark Glancy, Curator of Audubon's Birds of America, National Museums Scotland 2022 and touring

"This fresh look at the artistry of a great American painter and naturalist delivers delightful revelations with unrivaled authority. Outstanding!"
– Richard Rhodes, author of John James Audubon: The Making of an American, and Pulitzer Prize laureate

"Roberta Olson provides a refreshingly new look at The Birds of America from an art-historical perspective with a deep background on its creation. Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, and sumptuously illustrated, this is a book all Audubon enthusiasts will want to own."
– Robert McCracken Peck, author of The Natural History of Edward Lear and Curator of Art and Artifacts at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

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