When a little bird told us that Mule Design had redone the Audubon Society website, we flew over immediately to take in the gorgeous hand-painted plates of John James Audubon. As we were perusing the expansive collection, two of them stood out: Plate 108: Fox-coloured Sparrow and Plate 367: Band-tailed Pigeon. So as the saying (doesn't) go, two birds in the hand ... make for happy art collectors!
We have to thank John James Audubon for going through the most productive mid-life crisis ever. In 1820, at the age of 35, Audubon decided that he was going to paint every bird in North America and spent the next seven years doing just that. The result was his masterpiece Birds of America, a culmination of 435 life-sized watercolors of 700 species of birds both common and exotic, living and now-extinct. Only 120 volumes of the set of plates are known to exist and were quickly collected when they were printed in the United Kingdom during the early 1830s.
Plate 108: Fox-coloured Sparrow by John James Audubon
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($800)
Using wires to maneuver dead birds into lifelike poses, Audubon captured the multitude of movements inherent to the animal, from flying and diving to roosting and feeding. In his plates, he included the natural habitats of each bird—blue herons stand in marshy waters and barn owls perch on treetops—rendered in such detail that it's shocking to remember he wasn't standing right there in the scene he created.
With all the multitudes of species to choose from, ranging from the colorful Painted Finch to the cheerful Mango Hummingbird, you may be wondering why we chose a pigeon and a sparrow. We were drawn to these birds because they are in our everyday lives—pecking at crumbs on a sidewalk, dropping “good luck” charms, and chirping as they swoop overhead—but the way that Audubon portrayed the band-tailed pigeon and the fox-coloured sparrow reveals the true beauty of the two species. The rich tones of the watercolor make both bird and habitat vibrant; the attention to every feather and leaf lends these plates such detail, inherent in Audubon’s work.
We hold our editions to the same standards of quality and detail that Audubon did, choosing the highest-quality papers and inks to best represent these gorgeous watercolor plates. When we decided to we wanted to produce prints of these iconic images from Birds of America, we knew they couldn't be anything less than the best—and we feel we've done our job. These beautiful prints will continue to connect us with the birds we see all around us, exactly what Audubon and the resulting Audubon Society intended with his documentation.
Founded at the turn of the 20th Century, the National Audubon Society began as a group of people outraged over the slaughter of America’s birds for their feathers used to decorate hats. The group quickly grew to tackle larger issues such as waterbird protection and breeding, habitat conservation, and biological diversity. We find it so wonderful that art was able to inspire the creation of such a group, and it is with these two editions—Plate 367: Band-tailed Pigeon and Plate 108: Fox-coloured Sparrow—that we celebrate these efforts on behalf of birds and art alike.
With art for everyone,