John James Audubon

Self-Portrait (1822)
Artistic Era: Romanticism
Date of Birth: 1785
Location of Birth: Les Cayes, Saint Domingue (Haiti)
Date of Death: 1851
Location of Death: Manhattan, New York
Notable Works:
  • The Birds of America 
    • published as a subscription series between 1826 and 1838.
    • would ultimately feature 435 hand-colored lifesize prints of 497 different North American bird species.
    • the prints were created on engraved copper plates.
    • subscribers included: British King Geroge IV, French King Charles X, British Queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Lord Spencer, and Senators Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.


    • was born to an acclaimed French sea captain and his chambermaid mistress.
    • moved to France with his father at the age of six, but left for America at eighteen, in order to avoid conscription into Napoleon's army.
    • on his passage to America, the ship he was on was captured by privateers.
    • married Lucy Blakewell in 1808. Lucy financially supported her husband's artistic pursuits and looked after their two children, while he traveled the country chasing birds and ill-advised business ventures.
    • in 1819, at the age of 35, he declared his desire to paint every bird in North America and committed to becoming a full-time artist. This intention would later result in The Birds of America.
    • Audubon’s illustrations started as pencil and ink sketches, which were then colored and textured with watercolor, pastel, graphite, oil paint, and chalk. 
    • there are only 120 complete first-editions of The Birds of America in existence.
    • in 2010, a complete first-edition set of The Birds of America sold at auction for $11.9 million. 
    • while The New York Historical Society holds all 435 of the preparatory watercolors for The Birds of America, most of the copper plates were melted down after Lucy Audubon sold them for scrap following her husband's death.
    • the National Audubon Society and Audubon, Pennslyvania are just two of the many organizations and places named in his honor.