PRINTS BY JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
WHAT ARE THE ELEPHANT FOLIO AND OCTOVO EDITION?
HOW OTHER ARTISTS VIEWED FLORIDA AND CARIBBEAN WILDLIFE
John James Audubon
John James Audubon was born in Santo Domingo, present-day Haiti, in 1785. He grew up in France, where his loving stepmother encouraged his interests in drawing and the outdoors. His father sent him to the United States in 1803 to avoid Napoleon’s draft. Over the next 17 years, Audubon unsuccessfully wandered from career to career, and place to place.
In 1820 Audubon began his masterpiece, The Birds of America. From then on, he devoted most of his time to painting birds, with the intent of printing as engravings life-size portraits of all the kinds of birds in the United States.
Unable to secure financial backing in the United States, Audubon went to Europe in 1826. There he found both subscribers and engravers for the project. The first prints were made that same year.
Over the next twelve years, Audubon divided his time between London and America. When abroad, he supervised the engraving and coloring of the prints. In America, he traveled in search of birds to paint.
Audubon returned from England in 1831 to draw new birds for the folio. His first expedition was to the east coast of Florida to find water birds and tropical species. George Lehman, a landscape painter, came to do backgrounds for the bird portraits.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
THE FLORIDA KEYS
THE DRY TORTUGAS
Audubon was so pleased with his Florida expedition that he planned to return in 1837 to explore the west coast.
“We hope to go with Capn Day or Capn Coste as far as Cape Sable and visit all the Keys … the Western coast of Floridas before we sail for the Westward.” Letter to John Bachman, March 3, 1837.
The outbreak of the Second Seminole War, however, made Florida much too dangerous a destination. The Bulow plantation, where Audubon had stayed in 1831, was destroyed by Seminoles just after Christmas, 1835. Audubon briefly visited Pensacola, but was unsuccessful in arranging for transporation east and south. He followed the Gulf coast west to Texas instead.
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