Audubon in the Exotic West: North American Quadrupeds
The Rockwell Museum in Corning New York unveils an exhibition focusing on Audubon’s Quadruped Series
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.