John James Audubon
(Saint Domingue, 1785 - 1851, New York, NY)
John James Audubon is best know for his work Birds of America, a collection of 435 life-sized renderings of American bird species in their natural habitat. A daunting project, it took 11 years to complete just the printing of the volumes. The book is still a standard against which 21st century bird artists are measured.
John J. Audubon was born in San Domingue (now Haiti) in 1785, the son of a French plantation owner and a creole woman who has been labeled as both Audubon’s father’s mistress and servant. Audubon’s mother died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his stepmother in Nantes, France. Audubon came to the United States at the age of 18 to avoid conscription into Napoleon’s army. He performed his first bird experiments his father’s farm in Pennsylvania, banding and drawing birds to learn more about their migration patterns and habitat. Audubon travelled widely across the United States and spent time living in New York, Kentucky, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. An avid outdoorsman, he captured, killed, and even ate many of his bird specimens. Audubon wrote detailed journals that chronicle how he tracked the birds along with their habitats, markings, and customs.