If you take a spin through the newly redesigned Audubon Society website (thanks to our friends at Mule Design), prepare to be in awe of the vast amount of work that John James Audubon created: 435 hand-colored prints, containing 700+ North American bird species. And that’s just for Birds of America. Talk about prolific!
Our first Audubon release celebrated the everyday with our pigeon and sparrow. This time around, we wanted to go the other direction—embrace the extraordinarily elegance of Plate 411: Common American Swan, and honor the colorful chaos of Plate 26: Carolina Parrot.
John James Audubon brought his many plates to Europe in an attempt to get them published and his timing could not have been more perfect. He reached Europe at the height of its Romantic Era, a time when both natural history and dramatic artworks were held in high regard. People were drawn to these striking portraits of birds in their scenic habitats, so much so that Audubon was finally able to publish his monumental work, Birds of America.
Perhaps that Romantic influence is the reason Plate 411: Common American Swan is among the most popular in the series. We as humans have been enamored of swans for centuries. Because they partner for life, these elegant white birds have appeared in various cultures’ mythology as symbols of love and fidelity. In our own culture, we have “The Ugly Duckling,” transformed from gawky to graceful as he grows up to be a swan. Audubon’s print beautifully captures this same dignity, from the gentle curve of the swan’s neck to the dainty point of its webbed feet. The entire scene is gorgeous, with blue-green trees along the horizon and cheerful yellow water-lilies floating alongside.
And speaking of colors, there aren’t many birds more colorful than Plate 26: Carolina Parrot! These parrots were known to flock closely together and Audubon noted in his entry on the species that when the birds perched in groups, “they present to the eye the same effect as if a brilliantly coloured carpet had been thrown over” the area. With this knowledge, the chaos shown in the painting makes sense—you can imagine the cacophony of cries as each bird alights and squeezes in.
Sadly, the Carolina Parrot has been extinct for three-quarters of a century due to human activity: most notably due to hunting, although deforestation and the pet trade also played a part. Though this rainbow-colored bird no longer inhabits the skies of North America, we can still enjoy its beauty as it was captured by John James Audubon.
So whether you like romance or rainbows (or both!), we’ve got a bird for you. And as they say, two birds in the hand make for a *great* gallery wall. Take home Plate 411: Common American Swan and Plate 26: Carolina Parrot today!
With art for everyone,