The NCMA invites visitors to surround themselves in John James Audubon's natural world. The Birds of America comes to life in an animated immersive room full of the sights and bird songs of a nineteenth-century American forest. On view through September 15, 2019.
John James Audubon, “American White Pelican," The Birds of America, Plate #311, 1827–38, hand-colored engraving and aquatint on paper, 40 x 26 in., Transfer from the North Carolina State Library
John James Audubon
Born: “illegitimate” in 1785, on his father’s sugar plantation in Saint Domingue (now Haiti); he traveled from France to America at age 18.
Died: 1851: New York, N.Y.
Personal seal: featured in miniature his beloved Wild Turkey with the words “America My Country”
Birds as playmates: Audubon reminisced that from a young age, “None but aerial companions suited my fancy.”
Life’s ambition: to create a collection of life-size bird drawings “not only valuable to the scientific class but pleasing to every person.”
Precision before photography: Audubon complained that ornithologists drew “stiff, unmeaning profiles” from stuffed specimens; he did his own hunting and used a mounting board and wires to set birds in dramatic, life-like positions, often in the act of catching their favorite prey.
Rare: Today only about 200 complete sets of The Birds of America are known to exist.
The Audubon Experience is a temporary presentation located adjacent to the newly reinstalled Audubon Gallery in East Buildling on Level B. Visitors to the Audubon Gallery can view four large folios from The Birds of America and learn about the naturalist's life and artistic process.
Karen Kelly is senior editor at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
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