The Bell Museum of Natural History is offering a rare opportunity to view masterworks by the world’s greatest bird artists.
Audubon and the Art of Birds explores the human fascination with birds, and showcases one of the museum’s most valuable treasures: a double-elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. The rare collection of hand-colored engravings was donated to the Bell Museum in 1928. After restoration, a total of 50 prints from this mammoth publication will be on display over the course of the exhibition, with 33 currently on display.
Using Audubon’s great work as a focal point, the exhibition traces the evolution of ornithological art from the Renaissance to the present day. From simple woodcuts to elegantly refined engravings and photo-realist paintings, the exhibition engages visitors in the artistic struggle to understand the beauty, diversity and vitality of birds.
In addition to Audubon, other featured artists include Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, Francois Levaillant, John Gould, Francis Lee Jaques, Roger Tory Peterson and Charley Harper. The exhibition offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see works by these different artists, brought together in one location.
John James Audubon is recognized in both science and art worlds as a revolutionary, pivotal figure. His curiosity about nature began as a child and fueled his work creating life-size depictions of the birds of America, an endeavor that would take decades to complete. His methods were unorthodox, and controversy followed him during his publication efforts. Ultimately his talent won out and Birds of America became a key work for bird and art lovers around the world.
To protect the rare artworks, Audubon and the Art of Birds will close for two weeks in January 2014 to exchange light-sensitive prints. The second half of the exhibit will open February 1, 2014. Each half will include at least 35 of the total restored Audubon prints.
Thursday, December 5, 5:30 p.m.
West Gallery, free with museum admission
Birds are no doubt beautiful and people have been drawing them since the Stone Age. For thousands of years, they have been used in art as symbols for tribes, deities, and human emotions. But the images in Audubon and the Art of Birds were made to document the details of feathers, beaks and claws. Can images created to accurately depict a bird in nature tell us something significant about the nature of human experience? Can they meet contemporary criteria for art?
Thank you to all who attended the preview reception on October 3, 2013. Browse images from the evening.