Audubon in the Ex­otic West: North Amer­i­can Quadrupeds

The Rock­well Mu­seum in Corn­ing New York un­veils an ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cus­ing on Audubon’s Quadruped Series

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS -

Corn­ing, NY

In 2018, the Rock­well Mu­seum has turned their ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cus to that fine line that di­vides sci­ence and art, driven by the be­lief that these are “two dis­ci­plines in pur­suit of new truths.” The lat­est in this series of ex­hi­bi­tions is ti­tled Audubon in the Ex­otic West: North Amer­i­can Quadrupeds, which shines the light on John James Audubon’s am­bi­tious at­tempt to doc­u­ment all North Amer­i­can mam­mals once he fin­ished his clas­sic Birds of Amer­ica.

“Art and sci­ence share com­mon ter­ri­tory,” says Kirsty Buchanan, cu­ra­tor of col­lec­tions and ex­hi­bi­tions for the Rock­well. “While they have dis­tinct cul­tures, both artists and sci­en­tists have a cu­rios­ity for the un­known. Cre­ativ­ity is as es­sen­tial to the sci­en­tific method as it is to the artistic process. While widely cel­e­brated as a skilled artist, Audubon was also one of the fore­most nat­u­ral­ists of the 19th cen­tury. He em­bod­ies the over­lap of sci­ence and art.”

Audubon fin­ished his famed bird series by 1838. Then, in 1843 he headed West once

again to doc­u­ment the mam­mals, i.e. as­sorted furry things of the coun­try. For ev­ery buf­falo, elk or po­lar bear, Audubon also il­lus­trated hun­dreds upon hun­dreds of voles, field mice, squir­rels and such. The trips led to Audubon’s fail­ing health, which may have been de­men­tia or Alzheimer’s dis­ease and it was said of him that his “no­ble mind in ru­ins.” His son John Wood­house Audubon drew most of the plates and an­other son, Vic­tor Gif­ford Audubon, helped to com­plete the series which was pub­lished posthu­mously in 1851. The plates were based on Audubon’s field stud­ies.

The quadruped series are beau­ti­ful ex­am­ples of art as well as sci­en­tific il­lus­tra­tion. Many in­clude cab­ins, treed land­scapes, moun­tains, lush veg­e­ta­tion and other such back­grounds. This ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures more than 100 vin­tage stone lith­o­graphs from the col­lec­tion of Lee Sil­li­man.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Amer­i­can Beaver, hand-tinted Oc­tavo Edi­tion Litho­graph, 7 x 10”. Lee Sil­li­man En­grav­ing Col­lec­tion.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Cat Squir­rel, hand-tinted Oc­tavo Edi­tion Litho­graph, 7 x 10”. Lee Sil­li­man En­grav­ing Col­lec­tion.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Canada Ot­ter, Male, 1844, 22 x 28”. Lee Sil­li­man En­grav­ing Col­lec­tion.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Grey Fox, hand-tinted Oc­tavo Edi­tion Litho­graph, 7 x 10”. Lee Sil­li­man En­grav­ing Col­lec­tion.

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Bri­dled Weasel, hand-tinted Oc­tavo Edi­tion Litho­graph,7 x 10”. Lee Sil­li­man En­grav­ing Col­lec­tion.

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