Walking into the North Carolina Museum of Art several years ago, I hardly expected to see anything wildlife-related. There were a few classical pieces that depicted hunting scenes, like those by Jean-Baptiste Oudrey (see the upcoming July/August issue of Sporting Classics for more on him), but that seemed to be the extent of sporting art.
In a bottom level of the museum, tucked away in an obscure wing, was something to delight the heart of any bird hunter. Our sporting kinsman John James Audubon was displayed in all his glory; the gigantic book of his illustrations, The Birds of America, was laid open to display its wood duck content, complete with the matching bird specimens mounted in nearby cases. It was an amazing sight to say the least.
John James Audubon was born April 26, 1785, and died Jan. 27, 1851, at the age of 65. His 231st birthday would have been this past Tuesday.
Immigrating from the present-day country of Haiti, he quickly became enamored with the birds of the United States and even helped discover 25 new species. His ornithological and artistic work, aided by his gun, took the world by storm. He became known as “the American woodsman” in England, and began the first bird-banding project in North America.
In describing his life after moving to the U.S., Audubon said: “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment; cares I knew not, and cared naught about them.”
The following images, generously made available by the National Audubon Society, show Audubon’s talent and love for gamebirds. Feast your eyes on the wonders he created in that Edenic atmosphere described above.
For more of Audubon’s beautiful illustration plates, visit the National Audubon Society’s website today!