John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Plate Number 96: Columbia Jay or [Magpie Jay] from Birds of America
Aquatint with original hand-color
Framed size framed size 49 1/2” x 37”
Born in Haiti, John James Audubon spent his youth in France, where he studied under Jacques-Louis David. Returning to America in 1803, he embarked upon a series of ill-fated ventures as a farmer, merchant, and portrait painter. However, none of these occupations engaged Audubon as much as his avocation: the search for birds and the studies and drawings that he made to record his observations. A tireless entrepreneur, Audubon devoted himself to an unprecedented project, becoming the first to attempt the seemingly insurmountable task of documenting all the bird life of North America. This task grew out of a genuine and passionate interest in his subjects, and Audubon determined not only to complete a project that no one else had undertaken, but to approach it in an entirely innovative manner. His style and his persona were much like the European notion of America itself: ambitious, animated, larger than life. The artist's tireless efforts and remarkable talent culminated in the publication of his 435-plate Birds of America (1827-1838, London), undoubtedly the greatest work on birds ever produced. The celebration of this quintessentially American work, and the enterprising, talented artist who created it, has grown steadily since the time of its publication.
The spectacular Magpie Jay is one of several neotropical birds Audubon classified as North American on the basis of specimens purportedly coming from the Columbia River. In fact, this bird must have come by ship from the west coast of Mexico. The only definite sighting of this species in the United States was of a solitary bird that came daily to a feeding shelf in an Arizona border-town. Although it could have strayed from its Mexican homeland, most thought this was a special bird that had escaped from captivity.
Offered at $55,000
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