This online gallery explores John James Audubon's works on Birds of America. This exhibition will feature prints from the MFA’s copy of The Birds of America and some smaller works by Audubon.
John James Audubon created his famous book Birds of America, which captured the full range of Eastern North American avian life in the 1820s. Then, as now, people marveled at the liveliness of Audubon’s birds, as if they might literally fly off the sheet in a ruffle of feathers. This lesson supports the exhibition "Audubon’s Birds, Audubon’s Words," on view July 27, 2013 to May 11, 2014, providing gallery activities to help students and teachers access the collection.
As author and illustrator of The Birds of America, John James Audubon (1785–1851) traveled thousands of miles throughout the United States and Canada to seek out and draw North American birds in their natural habitats. In the book’s enormous pages—each more than three feet high—Audubon captured the full range of avian life in North America, including many exotic creatures. Produced in England and issued in a limited edition between 1827 and 1838, only about 120 complete copies exist today. This exhibition features prints from the MFA’s copy of The Birds of America and some smaller works by Audubon. The artist was also a gifted writer, and the exhibition pairs his birds with his words, offering insight into Audubon’s methods, obsessions, and the trials associated with his giant project.
Students will learn:
- How Audubon created his paintings and prints of birds, including developing an understanding of his artistic process.
- How Audubon used both words and images to catalog and document North American birds, both living and extinct.
- How his work reflects the increased interest in documenting the natural world in the 19th century United States.
Using this resource:
- Visual Art teachers and students will be be interested in Audubon's artmaking process.
- U.S. History teachers and students will be interested in how Audubon's work reflects the 19th century interest in science and the natutal world.
- Life Science teachers and students will be interested in the Audubon's methodology and in connections with current orinithology.
For relevant supplementary materials and classroom activities, refer to the PDF posted under Related Resources at the bottom of this page.
The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source--or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries--to look for other objects that will provide further insights into this exhibition.