Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Upcoming NY Historical Society Audubon Prints exhibition


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Audubon’s Aviary: Parts Unknown (Part II of The Complete Flock)
March 21 – May 26, 2014
OVERVIEW:  Audubon’s Aviary: Parts Unknown (Part II of The Complete Flock) will offer an unprecedented opportunity to explore the evolution of John James Audubon’s watercolors in the order in which
they were engraved. The second in a multi-year series of three exhibitions, New-York Historical will showcase these masterpieces from its collection of Audubon’s preparatory watercolors for the sumptuous double
elephant-folio print edition of The Birds of America (1827–38). New-York Historical holds all 435 watercolor models for its 435 plates, engraved by Robert Havell Jr., plus an additional 39 avian watercolors by Audubon.

Parts Unknown will consider Audubon as an established artist-naturalist, a world citizen, and a celebrity in an expanding nation—no longer the young Frenchman who created the “early birds” displayed in the first installment. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition follows Audubon into unchartered territories—geographic, artistic, and scientific—as he encountered and mapped new species and grappled with the disappearing illusion of America’s infinite wilderness. It galvanized his awareness about the necessity of conserving species and habitats. Most of the watercolors in Parts Unknown (studies for Havell plates 176-305) depict water birds, many of which are among Audubon’s most spectacular and largest birds, with numerous studies begun during his southeastern explorations and on his Labrador Expedition.
 HIGHLIGHTS: Exhibition highlights will include the following species:
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·         Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), which Audubon witnessed during his trip to Labrador, an area known for its puffin colonies. Determined to illustrate the nesting behavior, he depicted one of the two adults head-on and foreshortened in its burrow to showcase its breeding plumage, and the other positioned on guard in profile to display its rainbow-colored beak. Audubon recounted that some puffins “flew past us with the speed of an arrow, others stood erect at the entrance of their burrows, while some withdrew within their holes.”

·         Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), of which Audubon observed thousands arrive in Charleston, South Carolina, in March 1832, “in the marshes and rice fields, all in full plumage.” Audubon’s male model, in flamboyant breeding plumage executed in heavy gouache, measured twenty-two and a half inches in length to the end of its tail, but weighed a mere twelve ounces. The bird was over-hunted for its aigrettes, or tufted crest or head-plumes, and became endangered. Only strict conservation measures have restored it to its wetland habitats.

·         Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), painted from a specimen that Audubon purchased as an injured adult female in Boston. Struggling for weeks with how to euthanize the bird in order to paint it, Audubon suffered a seizure from the stress, after which he spent two weeks drawing this eagle. Audubon represented it straining to carry off a hare in a complex composition based on a work by the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. Showing the eagle preying on the hare, the composition parallels how the artist preyed on the eagle, with his self-portrait dressed in buckskins and carrying a shot eagle in the lower left.

CURATOR: Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, Curator of Drawings at the New-York Historical Society

ABOUT AUDUBON: During his lifetime John James Audubon was awarded many honors, including election to England’s prestigious Royal Society, the highest scientific honor of his era. He and Benjamin Franklin were the only American members until after the Civil War. Audubon is considered America’s first great watercolorist, and his ability to bring together science and art equally during the age of Romanticism reveals the range of his genius. It has only been in the last one hundred years, however, that his name has become solidly linked with efforts to preserve America’s wildlife and wilderness areas.

ABOUT N-YHS:  The New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent culturalinstitutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal
the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a 
national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

SELECTED IMAGES:  http://bit.ly/Aud2014

PRESS CONTACT: Timothy Wroten, (212) 873-3400 x326, twroten@nyhistory.org
GROUP VISIT ARRANGEMENTS: Ben Levinsohn, (212) 873-3400 x352, ben.levinsohn@nyhistory.org