AUDUBON, John James
(b. 1785, Les Cayes, Haiti, d. 1851, New York)
Watercolour, 60 x 47 cm
National Audubon Society, New York
The picture shows plate 216 of The Birds of America.
Born in Haiti, the illegitimate son of a French naval officer, Audubon was sent to America to enter business at the age of eighteen. By 1820, after several financial failures, he turned his attention to drawing birds. By 1826, he had made enough money to go to Europe to seek a publisher. He found one in England - Robert Havell - and The Birds of America was subsequently issued in four volumes between 187 and 1838. Consisting of 435 hand-coloured plates, these publications astonished people with their accuracy and their sense of exotic. The strangeness of the natural world had a particularly strong appeal at this time and was emphasized in many plant books and animal books.