Celebrate John James Audubon’s 230th Birthday: Save the Dates!

This year, institutions and individuals around the country are marking the two hundred and thirtieth anniversary of Audubon’s birth with a variety of exhibitions and events. The New-York Historical Society is mounting the final installment of its three-year exhibition of Audubon’s watercolor models for The Birds of America (BOA), and museums in Miami, Florida and Orange, Texas are displaying all 435 plates of the complete Elephant Folio, along with related works.

In the Audubon Park footprint, an installation named “Minnie’s Land” will be part of the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2015 Invitational Exhibition and in April, a three-part program of illustrated talks and a walking tour will interpret the site of Audubon’s final home.

Following, in order of opening date, are several key events with links for further information. Watch this news site for further information as each event nears.

HistoryMiami (Miami, Florida)
The Complete Audubon: The Birds of America

February 27, 2015—May 31, 2015 

HistoryMiamiFor the first time, HistoryMiami will display its entire Elephant Folio—all 435 prints—in one blockbuster exhibition. The show will display the prints in their original order, in sets of five as Audubon distributed them to his subscribers.

In addition to the complete first edition of The Birds of America, the  seven volumes of the Octavo Edition will be displayed in cases, each open to one of the lithographs. Every few days, a curator will turn the pages, so that by exhibition’s end, all 500 lithographs will have been on view.

New-York Historical Society (New York City)
Audubon’s Aviary: The Final Flight

(Part III of The Complete Flock)

March 6—May 10, 2015

N-YHSThe New-York Historical Society concludes its series of once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions with “The Final Flight” (Part III of “The Complete Flock”). This installment will showcase the final selection of masterpieces from the N-YHS collection of Audubon’s watercolor models for The Birds of America. The museum holds all 435 watercolor models for the 435 plates, engraved by Robert Havell Jr., plus an additional 39 avian watercolors of birds by Audubon.

“The Final Flight” tracks Audubon through the last chapters of gathering the birds that had eluded him, as he mapped new species and grappled with the latest information from expeditions to the West. Among the more than 180 species depicted, the exhibition includes now extinct birds such as the Great Auk and endangered species like the California Condor. It ends with the American Dipper, for the final Havell plate 435 of The BOA .

The American Academy of Arts and Letters (New York City)
2015 Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts
Minnie’s Land

March 12—April 12

Among the works in this year’s Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at the American Academy of Arts and Letters will be Paul Baumann’s “Minnie’s Land,” an art installation interpreting the history and topography of Audubon’s farm in northern Manhattan. As described by Mr. Baumann, “the work starts out for the viewer the way rocks start out for a geologist—the materials, and their presence—and everything else unfolds from there. Maps and models are part of what ‘Minnie’s Land’ considers, but there is no map to the artwork itself.”

“All the taxonomy works have been refractions of New York,” wrote Mr. Baumann, “This one is more self consciously on one level, an image of, and an homage to New York. At the inception, the series was literally made of materials found on Brooklyn streets.”

Minnie’s Land from an 1852 Woodcut

Stark Museum of Art (Orange, Texas)
Drawn to Life: Audubon’s Legacy

March 28, 2015—July 25, 2015

StarkThis is a rare opportunity to see all five volumes of Audubon’s personal set of The Birds of America, custom bound to the naturalist’s specifications. The exhibition will also include the later Bien edition of the BOA, a grouping of patterns plates, all seven volumes of the first edition of the  octavo edition, Audubon’s second great work, (produced with his sons and the Rev. John Bachmann) The Viviparous Quadruped of North America, two oil paintings by John Woodhouse Audubon, and a selection of family letters.

This exhibition will present John James Audubon’s extraordinary documentation of American birds and animals, including prints derived from his last expedition to the West.

Audubon Park from the Northwest, circa 1899.

Audubon Park Historic District (New York City)
The Power of Place: How Audubon Park Disrupted Manhattan’s Grid

April 14 and 21, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. (Illustrated talks)
April 26, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. (Guided Walk)
The Grinnell, 800 Riverside Drive (Community Room/Gallery Space)

The distinctive footprint that disrupts Manhattan’s grid between 155th and 158th Streets—the Audubon Park Historic District—did not come about by accident or from the demands of local topography. It unfolded from careful planning and alliances among like-minded property owners, whose political connections ensured that when progress swept up Manhattan’s west side, they would benefit.

Sharing an extensive collection of vintage photographs, prints, and maps, Audubon Park historian Matthew Spady will explain how this footprint evolved through two illustrated talks and a guided walk. The first talk, which describes the subway’s effect on urbanization north of 155th Street, begins with a look at the Audubons, who transformed their farm Minnie’s Land into suburban Audubon Park, and the Grinnells, who remodeled that suburb into a twentieth century cityscape. The second talk begins with a look at the Grinnells’ exit strategy from Audubon Park and then details how their actions determined the path of Riverside Drive, the defining characteristic of the cityscape between 155th and 158th Streets. The Sunday afternoon guided walk—on John James Audubon’s 230th birthday—will complete the series with an onsite look at key features of the Audubon Park Historic District’s distinctive footprint.

Other Audubon Sites to Visit This Year

Audubon State Historic Site (St. Francisville, Louisianna)

Built in around 1806, the beautiful old Oakley House at Audubon State Historic Site is a landmark of American history. It was here that famed naturalist John James Audubon began at least thirty of his bird paintings.

John James Audubon State Park (Henderson, Kentucky)

The museum interprets Audubon’s life through his art and personal memorabilia, framed within a timeline of world events. The Nature Center comprises three areas: a wildlife Observation Room; the Discovery Center with hands-on exhibits; and the Learning Center, where the park naturalist and art educator conduct environmental and art programs.

John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove (Audubon, Pennsylvania)

Mill Grove is the first home of John James Audubon in America and the only true Audubon home still standing in this country. The lovely estate, located in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania was owned for 17 years by Audubon’s father, Jean, a French sea captain. In 1803, Captain Audubon sent his youthful son John James to Mill Grove to supervise the estate that included a working lead mine. The Mill Grove house will be closed to the public for several months starting about March 8 for necessary upgrades to the utilities; the grounds will remain open.

Audubon House & Tropical Gardens (Key West, Florida)

The grand home that is now known as Audubon House was built by Captain John Huling Geiger in the 1840s as a residence for his family, who lived there for more than a century. Audubon himself never visited the Geiger mansion; the home was built several years after Audubon visited the area to paint 22 local birds for his grand opus, The Birds of America. According to local folklore, he may have visited the property during his 1832 stay in Key West. Audubon’s painting of the white-crowned pigeon features a Geiger tree like the one found in the home’s front yard.