John James Audubon in the West: The Last Expedition: Mammals of North America

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9780810942103: John James Audubon in the West: The Last Expedition: Mammals of North America

Millions of nature lovers are familiar with Audubon's exquisite portraits of birds in his great masterpiece, The Birds of America. Less well known yet of immense significance is a second masterwork by the noted artist/naturalist-a series of illustrations devoted to the four-legged mammals of North America. This splendid volume-created to accompany a traveling exhibition organized by the Buffalo Bill Historical Society, Cody, Wyoming-is the most comprehensive study ever made of Audubon's mammal paintings.

The superb draftsmanship and extensive field research that characterize Audubon's famous bird paintings are everywhere evident in the renderings of bison, foxes, deer, and much more. The text, by four noted Audubon scholars, places Audubon's mammals in the context of his life's work and evaluates his enduring scientific, artistic, and literary legacy.

SARAH E. BOEHME is curator of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

ANNETTE BLAUGRUND is director of the National Academy of Design Museum and School of Fine Art, New York City.

ROBERT PECK is a fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.

RON TYLER is director of the Texas State Historical Association, Austin.

180 illustrations, 80 in full color, 81/2 x 11"

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Review:

Only a generation after Lewis and Clark's expedition, the artist and naturalist John James Audubon captured his contemporaries' imaginations with his illustrations in Birds of America. John James Audubon in the West celebrates a lesser-known work, Quadrupeds of North America, which is the focus of a traveling exhibition organized by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of Cody, Wyoming. Audubon's Quadrupeds presented colored lithographs far superior to the outline engravings that normally illustrated encyclopedias and scientific volumes of his day. They have the same liveliness and sense of movement as the bird illustrations; background landscapes are small masterpieces in themselves; imaginative settings add a theatricality to many pictures, such as a tawny weasel at the throat of a farmyard chicken or a cougar with his kill; and details like the fur of squirrels and wolves are very fine. Audubon's research included a six-month field trip up the Missouri in 1843 that resulted in the discovery of several new species, including North America's only native ferret, the black-footed ferret--though the project was more important as art than as science. The 180 illustrations in John James Audubon in the West include the most successful of the animal pictures, preparatory sketches, and comparative material such as contemporary Western landscapes. Four essays by Audubon scholars analyze the artist's style, his Missouri journey, scientific collaborations, and the technical and commercial context for the publication of Quadrupeds. While his birds will always overshadow his work on mammals, John James Audubon in the West introduces an important pioneering study and a fascinating piece of American history. --John Stevenson

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