John James Audubon
Plate 386: "White Heron" from the "Birds of America"
Hand-colored aquatint engraving
Audubon's "Great White Heron" is a masterpiece from his "Birds of America." The size of this bird meant that to portray it life-size, Audubon had to give its extremely long neck a deep curve, and the artist used the size constraint to create a graceful, polished composition. The smooth curve of the bird's back is continued by its long tail of plumage, and its striking white coloring is set off by the darker, stormy sky and the tall grasses of the background. All elements work harmoniously in this image, as even the curving blades of grass recall the elegant curve of the bird's neck and body, giving the overall composition an air of fluid movement. The drama of the sky, too, is echoed by the drama of the hunt, as the heron pursues a lizard in the lower-left corner.
Born in Haiti, John James Audubon spent his youth in France, where he studied for a time under Jacques Louis David. He came to America in 1803, to engage in a series of unlucky ventures as a farmer, merchant and portrait painter. None of these occupations engaged Audubon as much as his avocation: the search for birds and the the studies and drawings he made to record his discoveries. He eventually conceived of a plan to make his passion into a financially rewarding pursuit - the publication of his studies into an immense engraved series. During the years 1827 to 1838, both in person and by Transatlantic correspondence, Audubon supervised the production of the 435 plates of his masterpiece, the "Birds of America." The most distinguished names in Europe and America were on the list of Audubon's subscribers, including King George IV of England, King Charles I of France, Daniel Webster and the distinguished institutions of the western world.
This particular example of Audubon's "White Heron" is in excellent condition, with full margins and vivid original color.
Offered at $75,000
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