The University Art Gallery holds the largest collection of Audubon oil paintings outside America, together with prints of drawings featured in his two publications ‘Birds of America’ and ‘The Vivaporous Quadrupeds of North America’.
A few of these works are being shown for the first time on the first floor of the gallery.
The University’s new museum and gallery, opening in 2008 (can’t wait), will have a gallery dedicated to Audubon’s work.
There is a wealth of information on the new section of the art gallery website at: www.liv.ac.uk/artgall/audubon
Here’s some of it…
John James Audubon was born in 1785 in Santo Domingo (now Haiti) to a French sailor and his mistress who died six months later. He was raised by his father and step-mother in Nantes, France where he became interested in drawing the natural world.
At eighteen, to escape conscription into Napoleon’s Army, he was sent to America to his father’s farm Mill Grove in Montgomery County, twenty four miles north-west of Philadelphia. Audubon led a carefree life and wrote that ‘Hunting, fishing, drawing and music occupied my every moment’. He became an enthusiastic and skilled hunter.
In 1808 he married Lucy Bakewell, the daughter of a neighbour, William Bakewell. Lucy raised their two sons, Victor Gifford born 1809 and John Woodhouse born 1815 and worked as a teacher whilst her husband travelled about painting the different species of the birds of America. Audubon set about trying to find a publisher in America for his portfolio without success, so on 17 May 1826 he sailed to England with several letters of introduction, including one addressed to Richard Rathbone of Liverpool.