Audubon as Artist: A New Look at The Birds of America (Hardcover)

Audubon as Artist: A New Look at The Birds of America By Roberta J. M. Olson Cover Image
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Exquisitely illustrated and innovative, an investigation of the artistic evolution of John James Audubon.
John James Audubon (1785–1851), artist, naturalist, and creator of the celebrated The Birds of America, is widely regarded as America’s first exceptional watercolorist. This book 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 something entirely innovative. Through this book, readers are invited to rediscover Audubon’s groundbreaking watercolors as exemplary works of fine art. Moreover, the book delves into the controversies surrounding this legendary figure, who, for the first time in history, accurately represented all avian species life-size. Beautifully illustrated, it 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.

About the Author

Roberta J. M. Olson is curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society. Her books include Audubon’s Aviary: The Original Watercolors for ‘The Birds of America’.

Praise For…

Audubon as Artist—as meticulously researched as it is spiritedly writtenwill completely revolutionize our understanding of Audubon's complicated legacy. Everyone seems to know Audubon these days; 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, author of “The Poetics of Natural History” and coeditor of “Audubon at Sea”

“Although so much has been written about Audubon, 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 birdshe 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

"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," curator of art and artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781789148381
ISBN-10: 1789148383
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: April 15th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English