To celebrate the sesquicentennial of the New-York Historical Society’s purchase of the Audubon avian watercolors and the the release of the lavishly illustrated book Audubon’s Aviary: The Original Watercolors for “The Birds of America”―published by the New-York Historical Society and Skira/Rizzoli and winner of a 2013 New York Book Show Award—the New-York Historical Society plans a sweeping three-part exhibition to showcase every masterpiece from its unparalleled collection of John James Audubon’s preparatory watercolor models for the sumptuous double-elephant-folio print edition of The Birds of America (1827–38). Over three years Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock (Parts I–III), will feature all 474 stunning avian watercolors by Audubon in the collection, alongside engaging state-of-the-art media installations that will provide a deeper understanding of the connection between art and nature.
The trilogy Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock is a once-in-a-lifetime series (2013–2015) that will explore the evolution of Audubon’s dazzling watercolors in the order in which they were engraved. Visitors to New-York Historical will have the unique opportunity to view these national treasures sequentially and in their entirety for the first time—the same way his original subscribers received the Havell plates.
Audubon’s Aviary: Part I of the Complete Flock will open with a fascinating look at the self-taught Audubon’s development of his innovative signature depictions and experimental media. To elucidate this early chapter in his life, New-York Historical will supplement its own rich holdings (dating from 1808) by borrowing a selection of the artist’s rare, earliest pastels: eleven from Houghton Library of Harvard University and and fifteen from the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de la Rochelle, Collection Société des Sciences Naturelles de la Charente-Maritime, in France. The French pastels were only discovered recently and have never been seen outside of La Rochelle. These “early birds” capture Audubon’s youthful excitement about drawing birds while in France and during his first years in America. They also reveal important new discoveries about the renown artist-naturalist’s methods and his early career drawing birds. Following his introduction of early pastels into which Audubon gradually introduced watercolor, the exhibition will feature over 220 of the artist’s avian watercolors, including the first 175 models engraved in The Birds of America.
April 20: Audubon's Aviary closes at 3 pm
April 25: Audubon's Aviary closes at noon
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